Former School: Loyola-New Orleans (NAIA)
New School: Marquette
Years Remaining: One
Recruiting Ranking: N/A
2021-22 Stats: 18.7 ppg/8.8 rpg/3.6 apg/31.8 mpg; 62.0%/14.8%/54.7%
Last year, Greg McDermott snagged a diamond from the proverbial rough, recruiting Division II standout Ryan Hawkins to Creighton. Hawkins started every game for the Bluejays last season and won all-conference honors.
Shaka Smart hopes he found another diamond in Loyola-New Orleans’ Zach Wrightsil.
No player accomplished more last season than Wrightsil. The 6-7 forward led the Wolf Pack to a National Championship while winning NAIA Player of the Year. He averaged 18.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as a senior.
There’s little doubt Wrightsil can play. The question is if he’s up for it at the Big East level.
What’s His Game?
Wrightsil really did it all last year. He led his team in points and blocks, was second in rebounds and assists, and third in steals. He made 62 percent of his shots. He finished tied for third in the whole NAIA in offensive rebounds. Wrightstil dominated nearly every aspect of the game.
Zach Wrightsil - NAIA Player of the Year pic.twitter.com/dwgWZ3ONdN— Intuition Hoops (@IntuitionHoops) April 7, 2022
Wrightsil’s athleticism stands out compared to the other players on the floor. In particular, his combination of length and quickness is impressive. Loyola-New Orleans frequently ran a full-court press, and Wrightsil would be a key part of that despite playing power forward or center most of the time.
His conditioning is also remarkable. Wrightsil played 38 games last year and was on the floor for the seventh most minutes in the NAIA in a high-tempo system. He did that at 6-7, 205 pounds, and he never seemed to slow down.
Wrightsil was very good around the rim where he showed touch when finishing. That ability will be key in the Big East where he’ll face bigger and stronger athletes.
Wrightstil (23) is a talented scorer who put up 18.7 ppg last year. He hit 62 percent of his shots from the floor. pic.twitter.com/VJylsCpQ9b— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 20, 2022
Wrightsil is an acrobatic finisher. He'll score around anyone at the basket. pic.twitter.com/7aY1HyLcYA— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 20, 2022
Wrightsil can’t replicate the three-point shooting of Justin Lewis - he attempted just 27 3s last year - but he can do just about everything else.
What’s His Role?
Along with Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Osa Ighodaro, Wrighstil should play a key piece in a dynamic frontcourt. All three have length and versatility. Wrightsil played every position down low, including small-ball center. He may be a bit undersized for that in the Big East, but he can give Shaka Smart minutes there when other players need a breather.
Smart will likely use Prosper at small forward as he’s the only member of the trio with an outside shot. Wrightsil then slots in at power forward with Ighodaro at center. These roles are far from set in stone, though, as Smart asks his players to play all over the court.
At worst, Wrightsil should be a strong role player for this team. Assuming his ability translates to the Big East, he could be a full-time starter and all-conference player. Wrightstil will have every opportunity to provide the kind of impact Ryan Hawkins did for a young team. If he takes advantage, he’ll be a key player for the up-and-coming Golden Eagles.