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Verbena’s Wright plays with heart, one hand

Verbena basketball coach Jonathan Shedd was skeptical when freshman Fred Wright said he wanted to try out for the team.

Wright, Shedd knew, was born with only one hand.

“I had heard that he [played basketball],” Shedd said. “But when you hear that and you see that he has one hand, you think, OK, we’ll see.”

Wright this season was a crucial member of the VHS junior high squad and even dressed out for almost half of the varsity games–insisting that his undeveloped right hand provides an advantage instead of using it as an excuse.

“I think it gives me better control when I’m shooting,” Wright said, demonstrating his shooting technique, “because I have to keep this hand on the side of the ball or I’ll drop it.”

That’s a problem Shedd has with some of his shooters: their off hand makes its way behind the ball to help with the thrust when it should stay to the side of the ball for better stability.

“Fred can shoot the ball,” Shedd said. “He has a very nice shot, and it’s something we’re going to keep working with him on.”

Wright first attended Verbena in the fourth grade and made an early impression on his classmates.

Phillip Hensley, a fellow freshman Verbena basketball player, said Wright was always one of the better athletes in physical education classes.

Wright has continued to make believers out of skeptics.

“He surprised a lot of people, like coach Shedd,” Hensley said.

Shedd should have known, though, because he coaches the junior high football team for which Wright played cornerback and receiver.

Wright was one of the team leaders in interceptions, but he is a coach’s dream because of more than just statistics.

“He makes the absolute most of what he’s got,” Shedd said about a mindset that can rub off on other Verbena athletes. “When you see somebody like that bust his tail, it’s got to wake you up a little bit, like, ‘Hey, he’s doing more with one hand than I am with two. I’ve got to pick it up.'”

Wright learned his can-do attitude at a young age from his parents, Carrie Stroud and Alan Compton.

“They told me I would be able to do everything,” Wright said, and he keeps proving them right.