In practice a few weeks ago, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman had the ball on the right wing. Elijah Pemberton guarded him closely, containing his opponent with his length and not giving him an ounce to breathe.
Wright-Foreman jab-stepped toward Pemberton, and with just enough space to launch a jumper, the 6-foot guard stepped back and buried a three-pointer. Pemberton threw his hands in the air, as if to say, “What more can I do?”
The answer: Not much.
“That was great, great defense,” coach Joe Mihalich said from halfcourt. “It was just better offense.”
Similar scenarios occurred on a nightly basis last season, a rebuilding year for Hofstra (15-17) but one that laid a clear foundation for the path forward. A year after averaging 1.6 points in 4.1 minutes per game as a freshman, Wright-Foreman emerged as one of mid-major basketball’s most potent scorers. He averaged 18.1 points per game and shot 49.3 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from deep.
While those overall numbers were impressive, Wright-Foreman was even better in CAA play, well after opponents began to label him as the main threat in their scouting reports. He averaged 23.2 points and shot 50.2 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from long range in conference.
That has Hofstra’s staff and players excited about the next jump Wright-Foreman could take as a junior in 2017-18.
“Not to be a master of the obvious, but he’s just a gifted scorer,” Mihalich said. “There were times he got guarded as good as you can guard him and he still scored. It’s a gift. Our job as coaches is to get him to where he can score as many points as possible.”
Wright-Foreman always has had the scoring gene. As a senior at High School of Construction in South Ozone Park in Queens, he averaged 23.8 points per game. But his opponents’ talent and athleticism levels were not nearly as elite as his college foes, so Wright-Foreman is still improving his skills and strength.
“I was just jumping over guys, and I’m so athletic and I was able to get my shot off,” he said. “Now it’s like everybody is equally as athletic and as good and as strong, so I just have to develop my body, especially in the weight room, to help me get contact and finish through contact and help me elevate on my jump shot.”
Wright-Foreman said his offensive footwork and defensive consistency are areas of focus. Mihalich said scoring is Wright-Foreman’s primary job, but he would like to see an improvement in his playmaking ability. He averaged 1.6 assists per game last year.
“I’m hopeful that he can still score a lot of points, be our leading scorer and at the same time get four assists a game,” Mihalich said.
So he could still learn a thing or two from Juan’ya Green, who averaged 17.8 points and 7.1 assists per game as a senior during Wright-Foreman’s freshman year. As the newcomer, Wright-Foreman constantly sought advice from Green — from small details on executing the pick-and-roll to staying levelheaded through stretches of limited playing time.
Green said he followed Hofstra closely last year and that he was proud of Wright-Foreman’s improvement.
“He’s a tough scorer,” Green said. “He’s a tough-minded guy. He can score like hell. One of the best scorers I’ve ever seen. Day by day he’s learning. I just wish the best for him. “