The challenge that Moses Wright faces as a sophomore

Georgia Tech sophomore Moses Wright is hoping to score and rebound in double figures this season. Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

Georgia Tech sophomore Moses Wright is hoping to score and rebound in double figures this season. Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

The promise and challenge for Georgia Tech forward Moses Wright can be summed up in his production in back-to-back games last February.

Getting time in a blowout loss to Duke, Wright gave the Yellow Jackets a spark as he contributed nine points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. The highlight was a putback dunk off a missed 3-pointer by Josh Okogie that fired up the McCamish Pavilion crowd. Coach Josh Pastner rewarded him with 20 minutes, his most playing time since the non-conference segment of the schedule.

But in Tech’s next game, at Wake Forest, Wright played 16 minutes and failed to record a rebound or a point, missing two shots from the field and three from the free-throw line. His only imprints on the box score were one assist, one turnover and two fouls.

“Moses has the ability,” Pastner said after the game. “He’s got to be better. He was good versus Duke and he can’t have a stat line with no rebounds.”

Tech, which begins the season Nov. 9 against Lamar, doesn’t hold the brightest prospects for the season. With the departures of Okogie, Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson, Tech lost 56 percent of its scoring, 48 percent of its rebounding and 43 percent of its assists, and this was off a team that finished 13-19.

But Wright’s potential to be an energetic power forward provides the Jackets some hope that the season won’t be the struggle that is widely anticipated.

“I would say if he can wrap his mind around just being of our biggest energy guys, things of that nature, Moses can really be great for us,” said Tech guard Shembari Phillips.

Wright, a 6-foot-9 sophomore from Raleigh, N.C., has a respectable 27-inch vertical leap and his 6-11¼ wingspan is favorable for rebounding and shot blocking. Wright is learning that he needs a mindset to match.

“In high school, there were games where I could slack through and still get my part done,” Wright said. “But here, it’s like, if you slack through one game, you’re going to get blown out by 30.”

Pastner said that Wright has come a long way in his maturity and focus, but that “I’m taking it one day at a time with him.” For Pastner, effort is of utmost importance. He prizes little more than winning 50-50 balls. Pastner wants the Wright whose play against Duke even caught the attention of coach Mike Krzyzewski, and not the one who exasperated Pastner a game later against Wake Forest.

“His next phase is to be consistent,” Pastner said. “He can’t be where it’s peaks and valleys.”

Wright’s offensive game is under development – he shot 30.7 percent from the field and was 2-for-31 from 3-point range. Where he can contribute is going hard to the glass, scoring on putbacks, winning loose balls and challenging shots at the rim. With Tech needing to replace Lammers and Okogie’s combined 14.4 rebounds per game, Wright (along with expected starting center Abdoulaye Gueye) is a likely candidate.

“I feel like I can be a double-double guy in the ACC,” Wright said. “Getting 10, 11, 12 rebounds a game should be easy. That’s what I’m putting forth in practice, and that’s why coach Pastner always pushes me, because he believes in me.”

Wright said over the summer, he grew closer with Pastner, which has helped him gain a new perspective on the hard coaching that he has received.

“I feel like every player has that moment where it feels like the coach is singling you out, but most times, it’s like the coach is actually pushing you to bring more to the table because he knows that you have more in you and he wants it out of you,” Wright said.

Wright’s basketball history is considerably different than probably every other ACC scholarship player. He grew up swimming and playing tennis. He played sparingly on his junior varsity team at Enloe High as a freshman and sophomore and then played for a home-school team as a junior as he worked on his skills with his AAU team, the Garner Road Basketball Club. He finally played for the Enloe varsity as a senior. So low was his profile that he wasn’t even rated by major recruiting databases. The 247 Sports composite ratings for the 2018 class listed 515 players, but not Wright.

Still, in one season, Wright showed that he has the ability to contribute at the ACC level, and he’s got three more years to build on it.

“I would say from freshman year to this year, we’ve all seen the growth out of Moses, whether it’s his play, his energy, his mindset, approach in practice,” Phillips said. “We’ve still got ways he can improve, but I do think he’s heading in the right direction.”