Matthew Wright leaps to defense of pal James Forrester over 'draft bust' tag
Phoenix rookie Matthew Wright works on his stroke at the end of practice. Karlo Sacamos

MATTHEW Wright insisted he won’t be a PBA draft bust.

The Phoenix rookie wingman played down the inevitable comparison to fellow Fil-Canadian James Forrester, who had an outstanding collegiate career at Arellano before being relegated to a journeyman in his first three years in the pros.

Wright came to the defense of his friend, Forrester, a fourth pick overall who was drafted ahead of Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia, Justin Melton, JP Erram, Ping Exciminiano, Carlo Lastimosa, LA Revilla, and Anjo Caram in the 2013 rookie draft.

At the same time, Wright shrugged off questions on his own ability to translate his impressive play from the amateur ranks and the Asean Basketball League (ABL) into the PBA.

“That’s unfair for people to say that (he’s a bust), especially for James’s situation, but that’s another story,” said Wright, who played for US NCAA Division I side St. Bonaventure and was named ABL Heritage Import MVP after leading the Westports Malaysia Dragons in their title conquest last season.

[See Veteran Hayes, rookies Javelona, Javillonar battle for final Phoenix spot]

Having those credentials certainly comes with great responsibility and that is not lost on the 25-year-old Gilas pool member.

“I’m not worried about anyone’s pressure because I put more pressure on myself than anyone else, so I don’t care what people say,” Wright said. “I don’t care about people’s expectations. I have my own expectations that I’m trying to reach, and I’m never satisfied, so that’s just noise to me.”

So far, Wright has plenty to work on after firing blanks in the Fuel Masters’ loss to Rain or Shine in their first tune-up game of the offseason on Wednesday.

“Matt wasn’t making his shots, one of four yata sa three points. Wala pa sa tono,” said Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia, who also handled the 6-foot-4 guard/forward in the ABL. “We went with him because of familiarity. Hopefully, he’ll help us on both ends. He’s a big wing, magandang support kay JC (Intal) at Cyrus (Baguio).”

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“That’s always a gamble (taking him),” Vanguardia admitted. “Pero I know he’s a hard worker and showing in practice that he can mesh with the team. He’s a big part of the program.”

Wright was the last man on the court on Wednesday, still taking extra shots long after the tune-up game.

“I can’t control playing time or if shots fall; some days, they’re going to fall, some days they’re not,” Wright said. “I can’t control refereeing. All I can control is how hard I work, the shots that no one sees after practice. Hopefully all those translate to a successful first year.”

Asked if he’s gunning for the Rookie of the Year award, Wright, who signed a three-year P8.5 million deal on Tuesday, said that’s the last thing on his mind for now.

“That would be nice, but I’m not thinking about any hardware yet,” he said. “I’m just trying to help my team as much as possible and be as productive and as effective, and efficient.”

[See Phoenix signs Wright to three-year, P8.5M rookie deal]

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos