When Nasseem Wright hit a growth spurt, he decided it was time to start playing basketball.
It wasn’t an ideal time.
Wright, a North Philadelphia resident, started to sprout up during the pandemic. At the time he was in middle school, and he wasn’t on a hoops team, so he started working out in his neighborhood and outside his house.
Problem was, he wasn’t getting coaching. Now standing 6 feet 6, there’s a good chance he would have become a post player, but instead, he just worked on dribbling and shooting.
He was a natural.
“Before, I was just more of a student, I wasn’t a basketball player, I didn’t start playing until like a year and a half ago,” said Wright, who is now a sophomore at Abraham Lincoln High School. “I worked by myself mostly. Every day I went outside. We moved and I have a (hoop) outside my house, so I just worked on everything. Dribbling, shooting, I got pretty good. It came naturally to me.
“Then I went to Lincoln, and I knew it changed my life. I started playing basketball here, and it all came together so fast. I really got coached and they taught me so much. When I was on my own, I just played basketball from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. Once I got here, I just started learning how to play Lincoln basketball.”
Wright is truly a fast learner.
He’s now the starting point guard for the Railsplitters in his first year at the school, and the sophomore has Lincoln firing on all cylinders.
The Railsplitters made it to the Public League championship for a second year in a row, where they fell to nationally ranked Imhotep Charter in a back-and-forth game last weekend. They followed that up with a berth in the District 12 Class 6A championship, where they fell to Roman Catholic 78-47. In that one, the Railsplitters were led by Khrys Murray, who scored 27. Wright and Tamir Powell each added six.
But the loss wasn’t the worst thing in the world because the Railsplitters are now bound for the state tournament, something they’ve been a fixture in for the last decade or so. They’ve made it to the finals before, but Wright is hoping this year they can finally bring home a state crown. They’ll open the tournament against Garnet Valley, the sixth-place team from District One, on Wednesday.
The Railsplitters will be shorthanded because they lose a couple of guys who are ineligible to play due to transfer rules, so Wright is ready to take on more responsibility.
“I’ve had a lot of help this year, making me better and I’m going to need to use that in the playoffs,” Wright said. “This team has so many good players, they took me right in and helped me get better. They helped me be a leader. They worked to make me a better player. I learned how to do a lot of things, things you need to do to be a good point guard.
“Now, I like to think I’m a point guard. It was fun, kind of easy because I built a bond, a chemistry, we know how we play together. It wasn’t that hard for me. I was ready for it, I never been on this stage before. I was the underdog, I never had a name, I did everything I could to help us win.”
At least offensively.
Wright is now a Railsplitter and even though he’s been with the team for less than a year, he already walks, talks and acts like a guy who sat under the learning tree of Lincoln coach Jamel Lindsey.
Sure, you have to score to win basketball games, but Lindsey preaches defense first and Wright follows in his footsteps.
“We take pride in our defense, defense is what we work on first,” Wright said. “Our defense is what starts everything for our offense. It wins games, in all of our opinion. It definitely comes from Coach Mel, he’s heavy on defense and we like to defend. It’s my favorite part of my game, it gets us rolling. It’s what gets the offense rolling. A steal or a stop.”
But Wright is also a prototypical point guard who comes out and gets the ball to his teammates. He credits his teammates for making him a better player, but it’s hard to argue that he makes the guys around him better.
“I try to go out, get the ball to guys, put them in position to succeed, and play defense,” Wright said. “But I try to score, too, when the opportunity is there. I just try to go out and do everything we need to do to win, for real, for real. It’s my job to make sure we win.”
And the exciting part is the sky is the limit.
Wright has worked wonders during his first year playing organized basketball and he’s only going to get better. He’s going to work to make sure he’s the best he can be for the next two years.
“I’m really excited because we have good players,” Wright said. “We have great seniors that we’re going to miss, but we have good players and we’ll get good players coming in. We have a great bond. And when new guys come in, we bond with them. I think that’s why we’re such a good team.”