Jordan Wright talks with reporters after hitting a game-winner over Kentucky on March 1, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).
Jordan Wright talks with reporters after hitting a game-winner over Kentucky on March 1, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).
Vanderbilt Athletics

Modern unicorn: Jordan Wright is the rare fourth-year senior in today’s college basketball

In an era of NIL, the transfer portal and extra eligibility, Jordan Wright is the rare fourth-year senior.

“We started this thing together. He’s my very first recruit. He’s the first guy that I signed to Vanderbilt,” a teary-eyed Jerry Stackhouse said about Jordan Wright after Vanderbilt’s first win over Kentucky since 2016. “I get a little bit emotional with this one right here. This is what it’s about. This is a great moment for us, a great moment for our program.”

May 3, 2019, to be exact, was the day Jordan Wright put pen to paper and officially signed his National Letter of Intent to play for Stackhouse and the Commodores. Nearly four years later, much has changed.

“He’s been here since day one, and understands the ups-and-downs,” Stackhouse added on Wright. “He committed to a program that was 0-18. That takes some courage. You have to come here with a chip on your shoulder to be able to do that.”

But after 2,500 minutes, 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 117 games (and counting) in the Black and Gold, one thing has remained constant: Wright’s presence is ingrained in the fabric of Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball. In a college basketball era defined by change, that makes the true senior’s dedication to the Commodore program both rare — and beautiful — in the scope of today’s game. With NIL, the transfer portal and extra eligibility now in the picture, Wright’s status as a four-year Commodore represents the rarest breed of all in today’s college hoops: a modern unicorn.

“When I first committed here I had no idea what I was walking into.” Wright said. “Coach [Stackhouse] hadn’t even filled out his staff yet. It’s an honor to have played a part in the return of Vanderbilt basketball.”


Jordan Wright came to campus in August of 2019 as the No. 331 ranked recruit in the Class of 2023 per 247Sports. Alongside fellow freshmen Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu, Stackhouse uncovered an emerging trio of youngsters to pair with future pros Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee on Vanderbilt’s 2019-20 squad. Wright, a Baton Rouge native, quickly outperformed his prep rating, playing in 27 games — and starting 10 of them — including an 11-point performance in a win over hometown LSU.

“My favorite memory would be beating LSU my freshman year and getting our first SEC win. It was huge for the program to finally get an SEC win and end the losing streak,” Wright reflected.

With the focus on rebuilding in year one of the Stackhouse era, it seemed as if Vanderbilt had found its future core in Wright, Pippen Jr. and Disu. In 2020-21, the trio started in 15 games together and were the Commodores’ top three scorers.

“[Pippen Jr. and Disu] are my two best friends,” Wright told The Hustler in 2021. “I’m with them everyday, all day, and we talk all the time. I think with us being as close as we are, we know each other’s games, [and] we know what each other likes to do. I think we all complement each other well. We all bring something different to the table.”

Vanderbilt’s burgeoning ‘Big 3’ didn’t last long though as Disu opted to enter the transfer portal in summer 2021, landing at Texas. Pippen Jr. declared for the NBA Draft but withdrew his name in July.

Both Disu and Pippen Jr.’s defections represented new avenues of offseason freedom for college basketball players at the time: the transfer portal (Disu) and an option to withdraw from the NBA Draft after entering (Pippen Jr.).

Pippen Jr. chose to return for his junior season and set the single-season record for points along the way. While the star point guard and transfers Liam Robbins and Rodney Chatman stole most of the offseason spotlight, Wright quietly continued to ascend. As Robbins and Chatman battled injury, Wright emerged as Vanderbilt’s iron man, starting all 36 of the team’s games. He finished his junior campaign second in the team in points (12.3) and first in rebounds (6.4) per game. 

As a junior, Wright not only excelled on the court, but off it as well, earning SEC Scholar Athlete in 2022. 

“He’s a great ambassador for us as far as what he’s done not only on the basketball court, but in the classroom,” Stackhouse said about Wright. “He was the SEC scholar of the year [in 2022]. He did an internship here with Nashville speedway [that summer]. He has aspirations to be a general manager one day.”

Personal accolades and an NIT run that sniffed the precipice of a Madison Square Garden invite scratched the surface of what Wright could do. But without Disu, and without Pippen Jr. (for real this time), it was Jordan Wright’s turn to prove what he could do as the Commodores’ alpha. 


“It’s been tough, especially this year,” Wright told The Hustler about losing both Disu and Pippen Jr. heading into his senior year. “Those were two of my best friends, and guys that I will be friends with for the rest of my life. We have a great group of guys in this locker room who definitely have made the carrying of the torch, per se, a lot easier.”

It’s that reality — losing two best friends and having to make new ones — that is often lost in the grand scheme of things in today’s college basketball. COVID-19 cancellations and shutdowns, something Wright, Pippen Jr. and Disu saw first hand after an abbreviated first two seasons, only complicated matters further. 

“These kids have dealt with a lot during their tenure here,” Stackhouse added of Wright and the class of 2023 on Friday. “They dealt with COVID-19. They just haven’t had a normal four year experience.”

Nonetheless, Wright returned to Nashville for his senior year to ‘carry the torch’ as the lone member of the ‘Big 3’ left. Despite losing Pippen Jr. to the Los Angeles Lakers, team expectations were higher than ever in the Stackhouse era, as the program welcomed a top-25 recruiting class (247Sports) and looked to build upon 2022’s NIT run. 

The non-conference portion of Vanderbilt’s schedule brought with it a few sobering realities, however. Vanderbilt lost four of its first seven as Wright battled hip and back injuries that caused him to miss the Wofford and Grambling State games entirely and parts of others. 

From there, Wright’s season became a bit of a rollercoaster ride. As injuries and early-season disappointments mounted, the senior had some uncharacteristically low scoring outputs, including just six combined points against Fresno St., VCU and NC State.

As the calendar turned to 2023, the senior began to find form, however. Vanderbilt started off SEC play 3-3, with Wright playing an important role in victories over South Carolina (13 points), Georgia (12) and especially Arkansas (17). 

As the season rolled on, though, Wright found himself struggling at times and, again, injured after sustaining a concussion against Alabama. His role on the floor became a bit murky as the stardom of Liam Robbins, the rise of Tyrin Lawrence and the ever-improving play of Ezra Manjon made earning minutes in Stackhouse’s rotation progressively more difficult.

Despite the downs, Wright’s role as the leader of the team never wavered.

“Jordan has been here the longest out of anybody,” said Manjon. “He’s kind of like the head honcho guy. He’s got the most experience in the SEC on our team. He’s a vocal guy, a leader on our team.”

After the team’s historically-bad loss to Alabama on Jan. 31, it seemed as if the season was lost. But in his first game back from injury, Wright (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) helped the Commodores stun No. 6 Tennessee, sparking an epic turnaround. 

From there, Vanderbilt would begin a scorching-hot stretch, winning four of their next five to propel themselves right back into the thick of the NCAA Tournament conversation. 

The run set the stage for a massive game at Rupp Arena against No. 23 Kentucky on March 1. Only four minutes into the game, the season took another unexpected turn for the Commodores, as Robbins went down with a lower leg injury and immediately headed to the locker room. Suddenly, in their biggest game of the season, Vanderbilt was staring down 36 minutes of basketball without the lifeblood of their offense.

In times of hardship, successful teams have a leader to turn to. Luckily for Vanderbilt, all Stackhouse had to do was shoot a glance to his bench and tell the man who he started his journey with to come to the rescue. 

Wright answered the call, putting together a herculean effort including a season-high 23 points on an ultra-efficient 8-12 shooting. 

No points were bigger than this final two, though. With just six seconds remaining in regulation, Wright, guarded closely by Chris Livingston, drove to the paint, spun and released a beautiful fade-away. 


Jordan Wright nails a game-winner over Kentucky at Rupp Arena on March 1, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).
Jordan Wright nails a game-winner over Kentucky at Rupp Arena on March 1, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics). (Vanderbilt Athletics)

In one fell swoop, Vanderbilt’s March Madness hopes remained alive and the Commodores beat the Wildcats in Rupp Arena for the first time since 2007. 

“For him to be on that ride and to be able to have a moment like he had against Kentucky, a rival, it’s special,” Stackhouse said.


Just two days after the victory, Stackhouse confirmed what many feared: Vanderbilt would have to finish their season without Robbins. Still though, the Commodores goal for the NCAA Tournament remains the same. 

In an era where jumping ship is practically a given, Vanderbilt will hand the keys over to their fourth-year senior to try to achieve their goals. 

“I think it would be awesome to be able to succeed and allow [Wright], those guys, our fans and our students that have endured so much to get the chance to experience some March Madness,” Stackhouse said. “I’m happy about where we are and being able to have something to play for at this point of the season is a lot of fun, and I know it’s fun for our fans as well.”

From being the first signee to a program that went winless in the SEC to now having the opportunity to lift his squad to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017, Wright’s undying loyalty to Vanderbilt has resulted in the most poetic conclusion possible.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my four years, even through the ups and downs,” Wright reflected. “Coming here was one of the best decisions of my life and I’m thankful for all the support and love I’ve received from Commodore nation.” 

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Jonah Barbin
Jonah Barbin, Sports Podcast Producer
Jonah Barbin (‘25) is majoring in human and organizational development and cinema and media studies. In addition to writing about sports, you can catch him acting, scouring the fantasy football waiver wire, playing golf and fantasizing about what Odell Beckham Jr.’s career would have been if the Giants never traded him. You can reach him at [email protected].
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Jerry Reves, MD
1 year ago

He is indeed a great ambassador.