It’s been a big year for La Salle basketball. Jerrell Wright, a former Dobbins basketball star, has been a solid contributor to the Explorers’ success. Wright’s scoring, rebounding and defense has La Salle in fourth place in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Explorers seem to be in good shape as the team moves toward the end of the season heading into the conference tournament with a possible NCAA tournament bid on the line. La Salle (17-6 overall, 7-3 A-10) will face Big 5 and A-10 rival Saint Joseph’s (14-9 overall, 5-5 A-10) on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Palestra. The tipoff is at 1 p.m. Wright isn’t looking too far down the road with a lot of basketball left to play.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Wright said. “We’re trying to go game-by-game to reach our goals at the beginning of the year and that’s to go to the NCAA tournament.”
La Salle caught the nation’s attention with big wins this season over Butler and VCU. Those victories help to legitimize the Explorers as a team to watch in the A-10. However, Wright believes the team’s surge into prominence began last year with its trip to the NIT.
“Butler win did do it,” Wright said. “After that, we beat VCU. We didn’t want everybody to think that was a fluke. Both of those teams have been to the NCAA tournament. I’ve been watching them since high school. They’re both good caliber teams.
“I think a lot of people now are looking at us because of our season last year. We have the same team from last year and winning games. We’re getting the crowd excited. We’re beating ranked teams. I think a lot of people are noticing that now.”
Ramon Galloway has been a major player for La Salle. Galloway, ex-Freire Charter standout, is the team’s leading scorer averaging 17.3 points a game. Tyrone Garland, a former Bartram High star, comes off the bench for the Explorers. Garland is averaging 12.8 points a game.
Tyreek Duren has been a steady ballhandler for La Salle. Duren, a Neumann-Goretti product, is averaging 13.9 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds a game. Then, Wright chips in with his contributions. He averages 10.0 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.
“Tyrone is doing real well,” said Wright, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore forward. “I always knew he could score from high school. He’s a fast paced guard. Tyreek is more like a pass first guard. He looks to get everybody involved in the game. That’s one thing that keeps our team going. We got guards that can score. We have a guard who is a pass first guard that can actually help the team out. Somebody who can get the ball down low, find guys when they get open and where they need the ball. That’s a big part of us winning right now.”
In 2011, Wright was named first team All Public League. He was selected as the Public League Player of the Year. He led Dobbins to the league playoffs. He averaged 19.9 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks a game. He finished his career with 1,303 points, third all-time at Dobbins behind Bo Kimble and La Salle assistant coach Horace Owens. Wright, a highly recruited player, made a great decision to play for the Explorers.
“It feels good that every game in Philly I have a huge fan base supporting me throughout the whole game and the whole year,” Wright said. “I try to go to Dobbins whenever I can to watch a few games. I keep in touch with Coach [William] Johnson.
“Whenever I go there, they usually show me a lot of love. I still know most of the students. I was just there two years ago. They still know me. I go back and talk to the teachers. I’ve known Horace [Owens] since I was growing up. We went to all of the same schools. We came from the same neighborhood. He’s helped me a lot.”
Dr. John Giannini, La Salle head coach, has made a big impact on his game. Wright has developed nicely under his tutelage.
“He makes sure the bigs [forwards and centers] are working out every day,” said Wright, who was the Big 5 Rookie of the Year last season. “He prepares us real well for each game that we play.”
The Explorers have been well prepared all season long. La Salle is coming off a 69-66 overtime win over St. Bonaventure. Wright had six points and six rebounds in that contest.