Hard practices under Vanguardia with Dragons toughened Matthew Wright for the PBA
Matthew Wright spent one season with Ariel Vanguardia in the ABL. Jaime Campos

MATTHEW Wright won't say he was indeed drafted by Phoenix Petroleum in the special PBA draft for Gilas cadets, and consequently reunited with his former head coach in the Asean Basketball League Ariel Vanguardia, until he hears his name called by the team on Sunday.

“It will be true on Sunday when they call my name, if they call my name,” said Wright. “I can’t really disclose any information right now.”

Regardless of whether he ends up at Phoenix or not, Wright said he will be forever grateful to Vanguardia for preparing for a moment he has been waiting since he became aware of Philippine basketball — play in the PBA.

Wright, a Fil-Canadian standout from St. Bonaventure, said Vanguardia has set his mind on how the PBA is since he was acquired by the KL Dragons for the 2015-2016 ABL season.

“He was very hard on me in practice,” Wright said. “He demanded a lot. I played probably almost every minute of the game. I couldn’t give any excuses if I’m tired or not. I still have to show up in practice. And I still have to play just as hard the next game.”

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Under Vanguardia, Wright had a memorable season with the Dragons, leading the Malaysian team to its first ABL crown with a victory over the Singapore Slingers in the finals.

Now, the PBA comes calling.

“He did a good job of telling me the truth about the PBA and how I’m not going to be babied. The schedule of the PBA is a lot harder, a lot more basketball, a lot more strenuous on your body.

“If you are waking up every morning sore in the ABL when you are playing once a week for seven months, you are going to have a big problem,” said Wright.

Wright already knows the PBA won’t be easy, and getting a good perspective on how the professional league was helps. In preparation for the PBA, Wright did extra work and added extra weight in order to be ready for the physicality of Philippine basketball once he signs up for a team.

“Maybe it’s the food out here,” said Wright chuckling when told that he bulked up a bit.

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Turning serious, Wright said: “I know the PBA is a lot more physical than the ABL was. It’s a ‘no boys allowed’ league. I can’t come in here and expect anything less. Nothing is given to me. I already know that, there’s probably a target on my back. I just try to protect my body by putting a layer of muscle.”


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