How London native Clay Wright’s passion for basketball brought him all the way to Ames High School

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Junior forward Clay Wright came over to Ames from London, England, in August. He adds a whole new dimension to an already loaded Little Cyclone boys basketball team.

Ames junior Clay Wright has a passion for basketball. 

He loves to shoot and can't wait to get in the gym to work on his rebounding, ball-handling skills and defense. And since Wright lives right across the street from Ames High he never has to wait very long. 

“It’s really convenient,” Wright said. “I’m able to get down here and shoot whenever I need to.”  

Wright's journey to becoming a Little Cyclone required him to travel a much greater distance. He came to Ames last summer all the way from London, England.

"We decided to give Clay the opportunity to try and earn a basketball scholarship as this is his dream to play high school and college basketball," said Clay's father, Chris Wright, a Minnesota native. "I have two brothers and three sisters all who live in the Des Moines area, so it was a good fit for us."

The Wrights moved to Ames last summer just before the start of school. Wright had never played high school ball, but Ames head coach Vance Downs loved what he saw out of Wright.

"I saw some film of drill work on YouTube and we were impressed," Downs said. "Unfortunately, Clay didn't get to play his 9th or 10th-grade interscholastic seasons. This has made the learning curve a little steeper. But he's picked up things really well."

Back in 2005-06 Downs coached Australia native Mark Lacey, the twin brother of former Iowa State women's basketball great Alison Otzelberger. Otzelberger is the wife of Iowa State men's basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger.

"Clay and Mark have very different skill sets, but both have had to make an adjustment to the structure of interscholastic basketball early," Downs said. "I'm sure that, much like Mark, Clay will continue to pick things up and have a strong season."

Downs was the deciding factor in Wright choosing to attend Ames.

"He has a pedigree second to none in this state," Chris Wright said. "I feel that he can provide the experience and opportunities Clay wants."

Wright jumped at the chance to play for perhaps the best team in Iowa. Ames is ranked second in Class 4A entering the season.

“The coaching, the organization and overall basketball school they have here — it’s just a great fit for me,” Wright said. “I love how intense it is. I love how it’s organized. We’ll practice every day and lift weights. I just love how it’s all about progress. In England basketball is important, but it’s something you do for fun. Here it’s a lifestyle and I love that.” 

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Wright joins a team led by Iowa State recruit Tamin Lipsey and athletic forwards Trevion LaBeaux and Corey Phillips. Wright gives Ames a second 6-7 shooter who can shoot over the top of opposing defenders along with Lucas Lueth.

“I’m a point guard so I like having someone to pass it to,” Lipsey said. “I can trust that he’s going to knock down the shot.” 

But a big part of the reason Wright came to America is to become more than just a shooter.

“I’ve always played the 1, 2 or 3 and (Downs) has been playing me in the 4 or 5,” Wright said. “It’s helping me get used to getting more rebounds and being physical.” 

Wright's taken his lumps going up against LaBeaux and Phillips in the paint. But he loves the experience.

“It’s pretty tough,” Wright said. “Those are some of the strongest guys in our conference, but if I’m playing against them it’s only going to make me better.”

Downs said Wright has already made big strides in several aspects of the game.

"He's gotten better at spacing the floor, guarding and rebounding," Downs said. "He's probably improved the most defensively."

Wright is averaging 3.5 points off the bench over the first three games for Ames. As he gets more familiar with his new teammates and what Downs expects out of him Wright's production will only get better and better.

“It’s been a blessing for our team to have him,” Lipsey said. “I feel he’s learning a lot about how we play and we love having him here.” 

Clay Wright is averaging 3.5 points over the first three games for Ames in 2021-2022. Wright is from London, England and didn't play any high school ball as a freshman or sophomore before moving to Ames.

Wright admits he has dealt with a little culture shock as he adjusts to life in America. But his teammates have fully embraced him.

“We give him a hard time about the accent and different words he uses that we don’t use, but we’re just joking,” Lipsey said. “It’s cool having someone that’s from a different country on your team.” 

Chris Wright certainly feels his son is in good hands.

"As a dad I'm just so appreciative of this opportunity and the memories and friendships he is building — that will last forever," Chris Wright said. "As for basketball, he has a lot of learning to do and he's still growing by the minute at 6-7. My hopes are for him to continue to love the game of basketball and embrace all of its challenges until he reaches his team and personal goals of being the best he can be."

And with his size, shooting touch and desire there's no telling how good Wright will be when everything is said and done. He wants to take Iowa by storm over these next two years and earn the attention of college basketball recruiters from all over the country.

“No one really knows about me right now,” Wright said. “I plan to build up my recruiting. Division 1 is what I’m aiming for.”