Wright-Foreman: Benchwarmer to Hofstra legend
Following a remarkable career that saw him go from a bench player to Hofstra’s No. 2 all-time scorer, Justin Wright-Foreman’s time with the Pride has come to an end. His athleticism and record-breaking scoring drew in fans both at Hofstra and around the country.
The men’s basketball star was second in the nation in scoring this season with 27.1 points per game (PPG). He led Hofstra to a school-record 27 wins and their first outright regular season conference title since joining the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2001. His stellar season led Wright-Foreman to be named the CAA Player of the Year for the second straight season.
However, before becoming the national face of the University, he was just a freshman from Queens looking to make his mark. During Wright-Foreman’s first year in a Pride uniform he played only 4.1 minutes per game while scoring 1.6 PPG. That season was a frustrating time for him, but also a time of great personal growth.
“It really just came from within myself. I knew what type of player I was and I knew what I was capable of,” Wright-Foreman said. “I would preach to myself ‘remain optimistic, good things are going to come’ through prayer and just sticking with it because I knew my work ethic.”
He also relied on one of his coaches, Hofstra great Speedy Claxton, for support. “[He] was a major help during that process,” Wright-Foreman said. “He always wanted me to trust the process ... When things got hard, I knew I could go to him.”
Looking back as a senior, Wright-Foreman has a new appreciation for his experiences during his first season. “It humbled me a lot,” he said. “If I could take it back, I probably wouldn’t because I wouldn’t be the same player ... I’m glad everything happened the way it did.”
While Wright-Foreman was a freshman guard working on his game, senior Juan’ya Green led Hofstra to the CAA Championship game and an NIT performance while averaging 17.8 points and 7.1 assists per game. When Green graduated after that season, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the future of the basketball program. Who would step up to fill such a huge void in scoring and leadership?
The unexpected answer turned out to be Wright-Foreman. Partway through his sophomore season, everything began to click for him. “After a couple games, I was like, ‘I’ve had enough. I cannot sit on the bench anymore.’ So it was one of two things. I [could] either transfer or stay here and do something.”
Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich recalls the exact moment that his star guard figured it all out. “The game we always talk about is the Kentucky game, where in the second half he had one of those scoring flurries,” he said. “… It was a breakout 10 minutes for him. It just became a springboard to him having a lot of good games.”
Since that breakout performance at the Barclays Center, Wright-Foreman has not looked back. He started 17 games during the remainder of his second year and averaged 18.1 PPG. Though the team finished with an underwhelming 15-17 record and a first-round exit from the CAA Tournament, they knew they had a star in the making.
During his final two seasons, Wright-Foreman has been Mihalich’s go-to man and did not disappoint. “He went from being a freshman who had to pay his dues and couldn’t get on the floor to being the face of the program in the last two years,” Mihalich said. “He exceeded everybody’s expectations and it’s just a wonderful thing ... You combine an incredible work ethic with a passion for the game and those are [a] coach’s dreams.”
He started every game for the Pride over that span and scored in double figures in his final 88 games, the seventh-longest streak in the history of NCAA Division I basketball. That consistency allowed Hofstra to build a team that supports Wright-Foreman and compliments his game. His teammates were a vital part of making him the player he is today.
“My teammates helped pick me up in a major way. There were games where I was down and then one game I didn’t score,” Wright-Foreman recalled. “Even with those tough times, I knew I could count on people like Desure [Buie] to help me ... He helped me, especially on the basketball aspect of things, to see the game a certain way and what plays I should be making.”
“Eli [Pemberton] was a major help too. He took some of the pressure off. He came in firing,” Wright-Foreman said. “[Pemberton] will forever be great just because of the type of person he is ... He came in just showing how hard he was going to work.”
However, Wright-Foreman’s love for this team goes far beyond his friendships with his point guard and his partner on the offensive end. He knows that this year’s squad was a special one. “It’s just crazy to see how we all came together and our cohesiveness showed right away. In the locker room, we’re laughing and joking; off the court we’re always together,” he said. “[This group] showed me how a team should really be. This group of guys we have here, they’re not only my teammates but they’re my actual family.”
The camaraderie among this season’s team allowed them to put together one of the greatest seasons in Hofstra history. Their 16-game winning streak and record 27 wins were incredible to witness. And whether it was his game-winning heave against Northeastern University or his 42-point performance to send Hofstra to the CAA championship game, Wright-Foreman was the catalyst that allowed it to happen.
Despite all the media attention and praise he has received this season, he knows this is bigger than just himself. “It’s never about me and it never will be,” Wright-Foreman said. “It’s about my team. We accomplished goals that haven’t been accomplished around here in a very long time. We came up short, but at the end of the day we fought as hard as we could ... So, no regrets.”
This season was a magical way to end Wright-Foreman’s storied career. It was a season the Hofstra faithful will not soon forget. Likewise, the love that the fans showed Wright-Foreman is something he will never forget. “The moments that happened this year are what I’ll cherish forever,” he said. “It’s kind of emotional to speak about it, but this university welcomed me with open arms. I couldn’t thank everybody here enough for accepting me for the person that I am and believing in me the whole time.”
Wright-Foreman will be remembered fondly as one of the greatest to ever wear the Hofstra uniform. For three seasons, he kept the fans on their feet as he dazzled them with bucket after bucket. Now, everyone has been waiting to hear where the Hofstra star will end up next.
“[Since freshman year], I was just trying to be the best person I could be and just put myself in the position for what I could be – possibly four or five years down the line – getting to this exact moment of entering the NBA draft,” Wright-Foreman said. “I’m going to talk to my family over the weekend and I’m supposed to be assigning my agent.”
If Wright-Foreman does find himself drafted by an NBA team, the Hofstra faithful will be sure to follow.