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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 09 2013

Maturation of Wright has been a big boost for Bison

Fargo - The statistical difference for TrayVonn Wright this year compared to his first two years at North Dakota State is noticeable. He’s been productive and is thriving.

Perhaps it’s because the heart and mind underneath the skin of the junior forward is also thriving. Growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, working fast-food jobs to help keep the family fed will forcefully develop anybody beyond their years.

When he came to NDSU as a freshman, head coach Saul Phillips saw a very good person who hadn’t had a lot of structure in his life. Former teammate Freddy Coleman saw a kid who was mature, but a “really shy kid who you had to crack the shell a bit.”

“You could tell he was a good kid,” said Coleman, now an assistant coach at Concordia College.

The shell has been cracked. On the court, Wright said the game has slowed down and he’s more in tune with all the details of the game. Off it, it’s more than just him.

He has a 5-month-old boy, Treyton, who he said has helped him grow up even more. When TrayVonn takes to the Bison Sports Arena floor for warmups, the first person he looks for is his son.

“He makes me play harder,” he said. “I have somebody watching me all the time and he just keeps me happy. I try to keep him happy, of course, but it makes basketball a lot of fun and more enjoyable knowing he’s watching me. Hopefully, one day, he can play.”

If he’s anything like his dad, NDSU will start recruiting him shortly. TrayVonn is a 6-foot-7 forward who has gotten stronger than he looks. He’s a big reason the Bison are considered a strong challenger to come out of the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., which for NDSU starts tonight against Missouri-Kansas City.

His fingerprints are all over the Summit statistics. He’s second in blocked shots at 1.8 per game, eighth in rebounding at 5.9 a game, 10th in offensive rebounds at 1.9 and 24th in scoring at 9.8 points. If the league kept track of signature dunks, he would be near the top of that category, too.

That was his trademark for the first two years – dunks and blocked shots. Not anymore. He’s added the 3-point shot to his arsenal, and his defensive ability is as hassling as anybody in the conference.

“He’s the kind of guy that can make up for about three mistakes by other people on a possession,” Phillips said.

His numbers would probably be even higher, but an injury to leading scorer Taylor Braun for over a month forced every player to adjust.

“You could go to the ACC and not see players like him,” said Coleman, referring the Atlantic Coast Conference. “He has high-major athleticism, and now he’s adding to his game every year.”

What impresses Coleman, more, however, is how Wright is handling the entire gamut of college.

“Just the way he’s responded to a lot of things,” he said. “I’m 25 and I couldn’t do that. He balances school, girlfriend, his son and basketball. That’s a lot.”

Phillips said Wright has not once questioned anything the coaching staff has done.

“If he were younger, I would adopt him,” Phillips said. “He’s thrived in an environment where more structure has been applied.”

TrayVonn said his mother, Yolanda Scott, did all she could while he was growing up. But he had to help even during basketball season working at Kentucky Fried Chicken or Long John Silver’s. There were a few summer jobs.

“Yeah, I kind of grew up before I came here,” he said. “I had to pay for my own things. But here, I know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen. Things just don’t randomly happen like they used to. It’s not a risky situation, put it that way.”

Nope, the risk now rests with the opponents. The former Iowa state high school champion in the high jump – he went 6 feet, 10 inches – is leaping through college.

It’s gone about as well as he could have hoped.

“I think it’s been amazing for me,” he said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia