He’s the back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association’s player of the year, second in the nation for both total points and points per game, a main reason why the Hofstra Pride is a 25-win team that put on the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games and why that same squad is the undisputed CAA regular season champions for the first time in program history…what a mouthful. That, though, has been the story of Queens’ own Justin Wright-Foreman.
Just about each time the senior standout laces up on game day, NBA scouts are among sellout crowds at the David S. Mack Sports & Exhibition Complex off the Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County. They all know what the Laurelton native can do and so does the Pride’s head coach Joe Mihalich.
“He can score to put it simply,” Mihalich said. “Not just can he score, but it’s his NBA skill, he scores like a professional,” the CAA Coach of the Year added.
JWF’s rise to stardom with the Pride began in 2015-2016, when Hofstra had a similar burst of magic, falling short in overtime of the CAA tournament to the Seahawks of North Carolina-Wilmington. In short, that team missed out on a March Madness bid by one game.
“That team taught us a lot, it taught me how to be patient,” Wright-Foreman said, reflecting on his collegiate career in its final weeks.
That first year he was mentored under the wing of Hofstra’s star senior guard and pride hoops legend, Juan’ya Green. He taught Wright-Foreman that even though he’s equipped with an NBA scoring skill, sometimes the team needs more than points.
“He taught me how to be a leader,” JWF said, noting that skill doesn’t stop off the court.
It’s no surprise that Wright-Foreman’s breakout happened only a few short months later, specifically when Hofstra took on John Calipari’s big bad, sixth ranked Kentucky Wildcats at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Despite the Pride’s 96-73 falter, that’s when Wright-Foreman’s potential was truly exhibited for the first time in college.
“We had actually seen it come out in practice a few days before that game,” Mihalich said, sharing that the team calls Wright-Foreman “fi-lo,” since he’s consistently the first one in and last one out of practice.
Following the loss to Kentucky, Calipari even admitted to this reporter that he would feel uneasy about a rematch with Hofstra in the tournament that season.
“I realized that game that these guys were regular players out there,” Wright-Foreman said.
Fast-forward to 2018-2019, JWF has shined in the national spotlight by putting up double digit figures in 84 consecutive games.
Speaking of consecutive games, Wright-Foreman’s leadership and his scoring led the Pride to that 16-game win streak. Especially when his near half court buzzer beater put down the Huskies of Northeastern in early January. It was a moment that went viral, winding up on SportsCenter’s Top 10, along with many other national platforms in the thick of that streak.
“That wasn’t my favorite game of the streak actually,” Wright-Foreman said. “It was the Delaware game in December, because that’s when everyone came out and everyone stepped up,” he continued.
Those are some big words for a player that hit a career high 42 points against Northeastern in a Cinderella finish of a night.
Of course, Wright-Foreman would later break his own best against William & Mary almost a month later when he sunk 48 in Hofstra’s comeback victory while tying the school’s record for points in a game.
Games like that prove why JWF is a finalist for the 2019 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award. That’s in addition to the 14 weekly awards that he has already taken home this season.
But for Wright-Foreman, winning as a team means more than winning as an individual, he said.
“It makes you feel really proud as his coach,” Mihalich said. “I’m sad we’ve only got a few games left,” the coach of the year added.
If Hofstra can win the upcoming CAA tournament then those few games will be extended some into the big dance.
The last time Hofstra made the NCAA tournament was in 2001 under the leadership of Jay Wright. He’s now better known as the Villanova Wildcats head coach and 2016 national champion.
“This team is special, Justin is special, we just want to win the next game now,” Mihalich said.
The next game and the Pride’s first match in the CAA tournament will be at noon on Sunday, March 10. As the number one seed, Hofstra will either face Towson or James Madison in the Quarterfinals that day.
“We want to finish the job,” Wright-Foreman said, while administering this warning to the rest of the NCAA: “Don’t sleep on us.”