Utah senior guard Delon Wright honed skills against brother Dorell

Utah senior guard Delon Wright honed skills against brother Dorell
Utah guard Delon Wright passes the ball in front of UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton during the first half of a game on Jan. 4 in Salt Lake City. The Utes beat the Bruins, 71-39. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Delon Wright spent a childhood laboring, and learning, in his brother's shadow.

Dorell Wright was six years older, bigger, and a better basketball player.


"He caught a lot of losses growing up," Dorell said of his younger brother.

Dorell has earned the right to gloat a little. He is a veteran of 10 NBA seasons, the last two with the Portland Trail Blazers.

But he should enjoy his advantage while it lasts. Little brother is catching up.

Delon, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, is averaging 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game for Utah, which carries a record of 16-3 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 Conference play into Thursday night's game against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. The 11th-ranked Utes play USC at the Galen Center on Sunday.

And, beyond that, Delon can boast of this: "I beat him one on one last summer," he said of his brother. "I had never done that in our lives. That made me happy."

Delon's road to prominence has been a winding one. He went from Lawndale Leuzinger High to the Rise Academy in Philadelphia to the City College of San Francisco before landing at Utah last season.

"I was in the NBA and wasn't around a lot," said Dorell, who played at Leuzinger and South Kent (Conn.) Prep before he was selected by Miami in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft. "When I got back home, he wasn't my 'little brother' anymore."

Utah, which is tied with No. 6 Arizona for first place in the Pac-12, has achieved its highest national ranking since finishing sixth in 1999. The Utes lost this season on the road to No. 9 Kansas, San Diego State and Arizona.

Delon has made across-the-board contributions — he leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, and is second in rebounding — and at times has been spectacular. Particularly memorable: his one-on-four drive to the basket for a tomahawk dunk over Kansas' Brannen Greene.

Of course, Delon was battle tested long before he reached college. Dorell made sure of it.

Ray Wright, their father, made a wood backboard for a toy basket and attached it to the wall in a bedroom. Dorell would play on his knees to balance out the height difference, but that did nothing to compensate for the gap in girth and talent.

"He was too big," Delon said. "He even broke the basket one time. That made me mad."

Big brother always seemed to know how to push little brother's buttons.

"I had a basketball video game once and Dorell broke it. … I walked into the room and he was acting like he was playing the game. I thought he had fixed it. That dude always made me cry," Delon said.


Said Dorell: "I was a real big brother, messing with him, getting him mad. We'd play and he'd call a foul and I'd say, 'That was no foul. Keep playing.' "

But he noticed something through all the teasing. "He never backed down," Dorell said of Delon.

The brothers experienced academic difficulties. Dorell, a 6-9 reserve forward for Portland, did not qualify for university enrollment out of Leuzinger and, after a year at South Kent, declared for the NBA draft.

"My mom and dad were a little nervous about it [but] the goal was to get to the NBA and we felt it was the best opportunity," he said.

Delon also has taken risks.

Basketball at Leuzinger was easy. He led the Olympians to their first division title, with 13 points, seven rebounds, seven steals, four assists and four blocked shots against Santa Monica in the Southern Section 1-A championship game. However, school was something else. Delon did not graduate.

After briefly attending Rise Academy, he moved to

City College of San Francisco, where he was twice chosen Coast Conference player of the year.

From there, he knew his next step had to be the right one.

"I was coming from a community college, so I had to go to a place where I had a chance to play right away and make an impact," Delon said.

He averaged 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.6 steals last season, and didn't rest on his laurels.

"Being around my brother and his peers, I saw how they prepared," Delon said. "I learned to work at the game, because in the pros guys come in every year to try to take your spot."

When it came time to make a decision about the NBA last spring, his brother was there again.

"Mom, dad and I all understood what was best for Delon," Dorell said. "I told him to go back to school, get his degree and show people more of his game."

If Delon stays healthy, his NBA shot should be just around the corner. He says he's looking forward to joining his brother — but not on the same team.

"It will be more fun experiencing it on my own," Delon said. "I'd rather we played against each other."

Why not? It has always been that way.

Follow Chris Foster on Twitter @cfosterlatimes