How does a guy commit to Kansas sight unseen and end up becoming a Jayhawk for life?
For Julian Wright—who grew up in Chicago watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls win championships—he just wanted to play. And when opportunity literally knocked, it was to good to pass up.
This week on The Jayhawker podcast, we take you inside the story of Wright’s commitment to Kansas and the two seasons that followed which included All-Big 12 and All-American status along the road to the 2007 Elite 8.
Wright’s interest in Kansas started with the Jayhawks’ head coach Bill Self, whom he watched coach at Illinois. The allure of playing for a coach he already admired who was now at a blue blood program like Kansas certainly appealed to Wright, but after in a lull in communication during the summer prior to Wright’s senior year, KU had ground to make it up with the McDonald’s All-American prospect.
Self and Assistant Coach Kurtis Townsend hoped their trip to the Wright household would land Kansas an on-campus visit with Wright later that fall. They never could have imagined they’d leave with Wright’s mind set on being a Jayhawk.
“I knew we were kind of making some headway,” Self recalled of the in-home visit. “Then we left and had a visit committed for him to come to Kansas. About 30 minutes away from their house on the drive back his mother Gina called and said, ‘Can you come right back over here?”
“We were like, ‘What happened? What did we do wrong?’ She said, ‘Just come back if you can,’” Self said.
So Self and Townsend returned to Wright’s home with great curiosity, unsure what to expect. That’s when Wright hit them with the last thing they expected to hear.
“He said, ‘I’m comin’,” remembered Self. “And I said, ‘Julian, I know you’re coming. You already said you’re coming to a visit.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m coming to KANSAS.’”
Wright vividly remembers the effect that surprise announcement had on his two future coaches.
“Their eyes lit up. We all hugged,” described Wright. “We just hugged and I said, ‘I don’t need to wait until the visit. I already know where I want to play.’ That was a memorable experience for me.”
Wright would go on to author many more memorable experiences for Self and Jayhawk fans alike, including an upset of #1 Florida in Las Vegas and multiple Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles. Listen in as Wright recaps all of that as well as the most difficult decision of his career: deciding to leave Kansas for the NBA after his sophomore season. Those topics and many more are covered on this week’s edition of “The Jayhawker Podcast.”