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The Daily Wildcat

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Arizona community mourns loss of former Wildcat Michael Wright

The+Arizona+mens+basketball+team+honors+murdered+former-Wildcat+Michael+Wright+by+engaging+in+a+moment+of+silence+while+wearing+his+warm-up+jersey+before+their+match+against+Pacific+in+McKale+Center+Friday%2C+Nov.+13.
Rebecca Noble

The Arizona men’s basketball team honors murdered former-Wildcat Michael Wright by engaging in a moment of silence while wearing his warm-up jersey before their match against Pacific in McKale Center Friday, Nov. 13.

Another person gone too soon. Former Arizona basketball player and second round NBA draft pick Michael Wright was murdered Tuesday, Nov. 10 at the age of 35.

Arizona basketball mourned the passing of Wright on Friday against Pacific University, hosting a moment of silence before the game to honor the fallen Wildcat. UA players also honored Wright by wearing his warm-up No. 2 pregame jersey before the game.

According to USA Today, Wright was found in the back of his Lexus SUV in Brooklyn covered in black trash bags. The next day, the medical examiner ruled the case a homicide.

Police suspect a man Wright met on Grindr, a gay dating app, was responsible for his death.

Wright played for the Wildcats in the 2001 NCAA Division I Championship game against Duke. Wright and fellow teammate Richard Jefferson would both declare for the NBA draft after the 2001 season. Wright was taken by the New York Knicks at the No. 38 pick.

“It certainly affects our basketball program. I know a lot of his teammates and his former teammates and coaches,” Arizona basketball head coach Sean Miller said. “When someone of a young age — and you don’t have all the answers about (cause of death) — you feel horrible, and so our thoughts and our prayers go out to Michael Wright’s family and our family as a basketball program.

Miller’s main message about Wright was how devastating it must be for his friends, family and the Arizona program as a whole.

“All his teammates are almost like brothers, and when you lose somebody, it is heartfelt across the board,” Miller said.

Speaking of those teammates, many have reached out to sports media outlets to pay tribute to their friend and former teammate.

“He was the toughest guy that I’ve ever played with to this day,” Jefferson said to ESPN. “Because he was a quiet guy, undersized power forward and just his work ethic and how he approached things.”

The 2001 team will be very familiar to Wildcat fans. The team included Gilbert Arenas, Jefferson, Luke Walton and Loren Woods.

Other Arizona Wildcats took to Twitter over the past few days to honor the gritty Wright.

“RIP Michael Wright,” Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala wrote on Twitter.

“One time for Michael wright! Gave us so many great memories during his time at UofA. #RIP,” Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs wrote on Twitter.

“Terrible to hear about the passing of a former wildcat Michael Wright! My prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time!” Philadelphia 76ers guard TJ McConnell wrote on Twitter.

“The @APlayersProgram family lost a great one today as Michael Wright has passed. Thoughts and prayers to his family in this tragic time,” Miles Simon wrote on Twitter.

During his three seasons at the UA, Wright averaged 15.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds.

Wright was recruited by then-UA head coach Lute Olson out of Farragut Academy in Chicago.

“If I was not playing basketball, I’d probably be on the streets and in jail or killed,” Wright said to the Tucson Citizen back in 2000.

Life Directions, a peer group to motivate at-risk individuals, and Arizona basketball pulled Wright out of the rough streets of Chicago.

Although that violent life unfortunately found him in his death, Wright will always be the beloved Arizona basketball player who hit the no-look game-winner to upset No. 1 Stanford in the Elite Eight back in 2001. The beloved player who inspired his teammates. The beloved player who simply went too soon.


Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.


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