The coronavirus pandemic already was going to diminish Long Island’s 2020-21 high school boys basketball season when a tragedy cast a dark pall over its entirety just weeks before it started. Uniondale’s star sophomore point guard Jo-Jo Wright – already the top public school player in Nassau at age 15 – was killed in an automobile accident on Jan. 27. Uniondale and the entire Island basketball community mourned his loss throughout the season.
The school is now doing all it can to memorialize Wright at the dawn of this season.
Uniondale will host the first annual "10 for #10 Tip-Off" with 10 games over two days, this Saturday and Sunday. Proceeds from the event will fund a scholarship in Wright’s name for a college-bound Uniondale basketball player. And there are plans to have Wright’s No. 10 retired and to have it framed for hanging in the Knights’ gymnasium, something that could happen during the course of the weekend showcase.
"He was such a great kid and such a great student and athlete," Knights coach Tom Diana said. "Though he was only with us a short time, he earned having his number retired. And it is only appropriate that his framed jersey will hang in the gym."
Wright was selected to Newsday’s all-Long Island boys basketball team as a freshman after averaging 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals and helping the Knights to a 20-2 record and a spot in the Nassau AA championship game.
It was anticipated that he had embarked on a career that would have made him one of Long Island’s most decorated players.
He was a passenger in the car’s backseat, traveling to an area gym for a workout because Uniondale High was not open because of the pandemic. There was a collision with another vehicle at the intersection of Front Street and Maple Avenue in Uniondale. The car he was riding in caromed into a utility pole.
At the time, Diana said of Wright, "he was funny and playful and full of life … And he might have been one of the most talented players to ever walk the halls at our school. He had a great future."
On Tuesday, Diana said "I am still devastated. He was so exceptional in so many ways."
The event will have five games played each day, beginning at 10 a.m. The schedule for Saturday begins with Mepham against Floral Park and is followed by South Side against Calhoun, Island Trees opposing Jericho and Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK facing Garden City. The slate finishes with Wantagh going up against the Knights at 6 p.m.
The schedule for Sunday begins with Oceanside against Lynbrook and then is followed by Sewanhaka versus Friends Academy, Freeport against Roslyn and Syosset playing Elmont. The Knights play the last game at 6 p.m. against Valley Stream South.