01/29/2009 2:06 PM ET
Wright choice? Junior picks Fordham
'Air Jamaica' has one more sesaon of high school ball
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Joel Wright played for Thomas Jefferson High School at the recent SNY Invitational contested at NYU. (Christina Santucci)

NEW YORK -- Joel "Air Jamaica" Wright made his college announcement Thursday afternoon in the SNY studios in Midtown Manhattan.

"The school I will be going to will be Fordham University up in the Bronx. I'm staying local," said the 6-foot-6, 208-pound Wright, a junior forward at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.

Wright, whose team competed last weekend in the SNY Invitational at New York University, is averaging 25 points and 19 rebounds for the Orange Wave. He poured in 56 points and grabbed 29 rebounds in a win over Grady.

Wright chose Fordham (3-15, 1-5 Atlantic 10 Conference) over offers from Big East schools Providence, West Virginia and St. John's. He also had interest from Seton Hall and Villanova.

Because he will be 19 next year and too old to play in the PSAL, Wright will prep next year year, likely at New Hampton (N.H.). He won't be eligible to sign a national letter of intent until November, and will enroll at Fordham in the fall of 2010.

"I had a lot of offers from the rest of the schools, but I had a discussion with my coaches," Wright said. "The rest of the schools that gave me offers liked me, and Fordham really loved me. They showed me that they loved me and they were ready for me to come there, so that's why I picked Fordham."

Wright said he enjoyed strong relationships with Fordham head coach Dereck Whittenburg and assistant coach Jared Grasso, the lead recruiter for Wright. Whittenburg also coached Thomas Jefferson assistant Seldon Jefferson when they were both at West Virginia.

"I've known them for a long time but once I met them they really brought a family experience to me," Wright said. "They really made me feel like I was at home."

"I'm just happy for him," Jefferson coach Lawrence Pollard said in a phone interview. "I guess Fordham really made him feel that they loved him. At the end of the day, the kid's happy. That's what it's all about."

And where does the "Air Jamaica" nickname come from?

"That nickname came from back in the eighth grade," Wright said. "After I worked hard my whole eighth grade and seventh grade year, I played in a tournament. I was able to jump out of the building in the tournament. The rims weren't that big but they knew I was Jamaican. And they give me the name 'Air Jamaica' and I lived up to the name ever since that happened."

Wright hopes to play the small forward and power forward positions at Fordham when he arrives.

"I'm just going there to work hard at Fordham," he said. "I know they need the help, so I'm definitely going there to work hard, work the hardest. I'm going to fill in wherever they want me, be respectful and just have nice college years."

Tom Konchalski, the Queens-based recruiting expert, says Wright is an "athletic" player with a strong upside.

"He's a very athletic kid, the way his name indicates," Konchalski said. "He's not a fully developed perimeter player. He's got to flush out his skill set. He's got to be able to put the ball on the floor to make a play for himself or somebody else.

"He's got the wingspan of a condor. He's the kind of athlete that Fordham needs in order to be competitive in the Atlantic 10. [Freshman point guard] Jio [Fontan] is obviously going to be cornerstone of their program. The Lance Browns and the Chris Gastons give them more athleticism than they've had and the kind of athleticism they'll need to compete in the league."

Brown, a senior wing from Paterson (N.J.) Catholic, and Gaston, a forward from New Jersey who is prepping at New Hampton (N.H.), were also recruited by Grasso for next year.

Wright is looking forward to playing with them.

"I feel I can help turn the program around big-time," he said. "Go there with my athleticism and the way I jump and the way I could work hard. I know Lance, I know Jio, I know how all those guys play. I know Jio likes to run, so I'm in that running spirit, too.

"That's where I get most of my points from, running the floor. I get along with them fine, so I knew it was a good home."

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com.
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