As the Newton North boys’ basketball team entered the gym for practice, there was no hesitation. The players went right to work, running up and down the court, hustling toward the basket for every layup and cheering each other on.
Amid all the chaos stood a 6-foot sophomore named Ethan Wright. Wright, 15, is in his second year on the varsity, but you’d think he was a fourth-year senior by the way he plays and leads his team.
The Newton North program is no stranger to talented basketball players. Last year, it graduated one of the best shooters anybody had seen in a long time in Tommy Mobley, who finished with the second-most points in program history (1,604) and will play at Amherst College next fall.
Anthony Gurley, the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,850 points), led the Tigers to back-to-back state championships in 2005-06 and then went on to play at Wake Forest for a year before transferring to UMass.
With Gurley on those championship teams was Corey Lowe, who went on to a successful career at Boston University, where he was a starter for four years and is the fourth-leading scorer in Terriers history.
Ethan Wright? Well, only time will tell where his talents take him and his team, but he has some great mentors to look up to.
“There were a lot of seniors that helped me out last year,” Wright said. “[Mobley] was a sensational scorer. He helped me with my shooting and with some of my skills.”
Wright, in fact, almost matched Mobley’s school record for points in game (42) with a 39-point performance against Braintree this season.
Wright is averaging 24 points per game, which is near the top in Massachusetts. At times, his dead-eye shooting from the 3-point line is reminiscent of Mobley, but it’s his athleticism and leaping ability that bring out another comparison.
“I equate Wright’s game a little bit more to [Gurley’s], just in terms of his ability to get vertical,” said coach Paul Connolly. “Wright has the ability to rise above people and get his hands free to shoot.
“But each one of these players are different in their own way.”
Connolly credits the work Wright did in the offseason and his pure athleticism.
In practice, Wright makes everything look simple, as he comes down the court to pull up for a jumper or throw down a dunk.
“He worked his tail off this offseason,” Connolly said. “If you look at where he was last year to this year, physically, and a lot of that is maturity as he continues to grow.”
Wright’s role has changed dramatically from last season and will continue to change.
“Each year the roles change,” said Connolly. “Ethan has such special talents that he has been able to elevate his game to what the team needs.”
Last season, Wright scored about 180 points. Almost three-quarters of the way through his sophomore season, he has more than 300 and quite possibly could be the MVP of the league.
“He has put himself in position to be an elite scorer in the history of the program and an elite scorer in the entire state,” said Connolly.
The sky’s the limit for Wright. Being only a sophomore, he has a long road ahead of him, with essentially one goal on his mind: “I want to a win a state championship.”
Karl Capen can be reached at email@example.com.