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When the NBA Draft rolled around, Delon Wright turned off his TV and headed for the gym.
He followed the picks on his phone, occasionally smiling at seeing a few guys he knew get selected in the two-round event. But many friends didn't get taken in the draft, and that's why Wright was in the gym and not plopped in front of his TV: He was told if he had entered the fray this year, he might not be drafted at all.
"It was tough, man," Wright said. "But I had a lot of people telling me it would be better to come back. Work on my game, work on my body. Come back next year and get drafted."
The Utes guard is one of 30 college players in Las Vegas this week for the LeBron James Skills Academy, and one of his main goals is to show the NBA scouts present that he deserves to be in the war room conversations on draft night next June. The versatile combo guard splashed into the Pac-12 as a junior college transfer into Salt Lake City, earning first-team honors after being one of the conference's leaders in most relevant statistical categories.
But Wright is thinking ahead: He's not worried about what he did well last year, but more concerned with improving those areas where he wasn't so solid, such as his 3-point shooting.
"It's not so much that I have a number," he said. "I just shoot threes until I can't shoot any more."
The Skills Academy begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday, and Wright said he's excited for the showcase. He's met James a few times before through his brother, Portland Trail Blazers guard Dorell Wright, and he's excited for the prospect of sharing the court.
His recent elevated status as one of college basketball's top players, however, hasn't made him forget his challenging route to this point. Wright struggled initially as a high school player with studies and maturity, which led him to the City College of San Francisco as he earned his way into Division I. Some days, he said, it's hard to believe he's made it this far.
"It was real tough," he said. "I didn't know when I was going to get my grades together for a long time, and then it was about picking the best school where I could do well."
Wright said he's glad to have a home in Utah, where offseason workouts with the team "are going real well." He hasn't yet anointed any freshman to take his mantle as an impact newcomer yet, but said they're all doing well adapting to Larry Krystkowiak's system.
Motivation isn't hard to come by, he said. He's watched film of the Saint Mary's game, Utah's bitter first-round loss in the NIT, four times since the end of the season.
"We thought we were going to go way farther, so it was tough," Wright said. "But we see what we did. We're not going to go through that again."