The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference does not award a Most Improved Player honor. If they did, Justin Wright would likely have been the unanimous recipient this season.
Wright appeared in just 12 games during his freshman campaign at North Carolina Central, totaling 66 minutes of action. 24 of those minutes came against Carver College, which participates in the National Christian College Athletic Association.
Wright amassed double digit minutes just once, tallying one minute of action in four of his 12 appearances. The Greenville, N.C., native recorded a total of 16 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists during his diaper dandy season in Durham.
As a sophomore, Wright has emerged as the face of North Carolina Central basketball.
“My role is to bring the energy,” the guard said. “When my energy is high the team plays good.”
After beginning the season as a valuable bench piece, Wright has become the focal point, starting the last 15 games for the Eagles.
The All-MEAC First Team selection has improved his scoring average from 1.3 points per game to 13.7 points per contest. He recorded a career-high 32 points against Delaware State.
Wright’s dominance in conference play has been even more impressive, leading the MEAC in scoring with 20.1 points per game against conference foes. He tallied 20 or more points eight times during league play, where he ranked first in field-goal percentage at 52%. While the sophomore paced the Eagles scoring attack, he ranked second among the Eagles in assists with 2.1 per contest.
Eagle Nation,— NCCU Men's Basketball (@NCCU_MBB) March 4, 2022
Join us is congratulating @Jgetabuck24 and @bossybills on their All-MEAC selections for the 2021-2022season!! @Jgetabuck24 finishes with 1st team All-MEAC Honors@bossybills finishes with 2nd team All-MEAC honors #EarnedNotGiven pic.twitter.com/76leEG1Y4p
After recording 25 points and a game-winner against Coppin State and 24 points against Morgan State in early February, the emergence of Wright was cemented on Feb. 19 in Dover, Del.
North Carolina Central found itself trailing Delaware State by double digits with 4:41 remaining in the second half. After clawing their way back, the Eagles trailed by three with eight seconds remaining.
Wright, who scored 20 of his career-high 32 points during the final 25 minutes, stepped up and tied the game from behind the arc with 3.1 remaining.
Wright’s heroics forced overtime, where North Carolina Central outscored the Hornets 11-6 en route to an 84-79 victory. The sophomore guard also recorded a career-high nine rebounds in what was the best performance of his young career.
After their win against 2-21 Delaware State, the Eagles faltered, closing out the regular season losing three of their last four contests.
Despite their late season struggles, Levelle Moton’s squad entered the MEAC Tournament in Norfolk as the No. 3 seed. After a comfortable victory over Maryland Eastern Shore, Justin Wright and company will take on Coppin State in the semifinals tonight.
As North Carolina Central looks ahead to this matchup, Wright attributes last season’s MEAC Tournament, where the Eagles were upset by Norfolk State in the quarterfinals, as the motivation for his breakout season.
“That’s pushed me to be in the gym every day and just come back this season a new man,” Wright said.
According to DraftKings, North Carolina Central is a two point favorite (-2) with the O/U at 140.5, as it seeks to clinch its fourth finals appearance in the last five MEAC tournaments.
Expect Wright, who averaged 22 PPG in the two meetings with Coppin State, to leave his mark in the box score.