The surprise of the year for National Collegiate came on Jan. 4, when the team bus got a flat tire on the way to a game against Forestville in Hagerstown. The game was pushed back, and by the time the Panthers had arrived, there was no time to warm up. That wasn’t a problem for National Collegiate guard Danzel Wright, who scored 22 first-quarter points. Forestville had just 11 in the first eight minutes.
“What he did that game, that first quarter, I’m not going to lie to you,” National Collegiate Coach Sam Korpoi said, “that opened up my eyes, like, ‘Wow.’”
Wright finished with 40 points and five assists in the 77-53 win. It was a career high in points for Wright, but it was a scoring burst that has become commonplace the past two seasons at National Collegiate (7-4). He averaged 22.3 points per game as a junior, and poured in 25 points or more in 12 games. He’s averaging 30.4 points per game in 10 games this season — with 78 points in his last two games, including a 38-point performance in a 91-64 win over Perry Street Prep on Tuesday.
Wright has hit 12 three-pointers in his last two appearances, including seven in the win over Forestville, and his outside shooting opens up his most effective offensive move. He calls it “the hesitation,” a move that most of his opponents expect, but struggle to stop. He floats in front of his defender as he is about to shoot, then attacks the basket as the defender bites. Long workout sessions over the summer to perfect his three-point shot and pull-up mid-range game has only made the move more effective.
“I gash people with that move every game, even people that know,” said Wright, who has gained interest from Fairfield, Delaware State and Bowie State. “As soon as my junior year was over, the season was over, I didn’t even wait until the summer. I just got right to work. Every day I was working on improving my jump shot. I feel like that’s what took my game to another level.”
Wright is getting to the line a lot, too. He’s averaging nearly eight free throw attempts per game and is shooting 85 percent. National Collegiate is 4-0 in Public Charter Athletic Association play, a league that Wright is confident his team can win and eventually make a run in the DCSAA playoffs. Like so many area players, Wright has paid his dues at several schools before finding a comfortable fit. he started his career at Carroll, then played his sophomore year at Perry Street Prep before transferring to National Collegiate.
“I felt like I could always score like I’m scoring [now],” Wright said. “Coming to National Collegiate, it just gave me a chance to show my true ability.”