SEATTLE — Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright have friends who know they’re at Washington. They just think its the place with the Washington Monument, not the one with the Space Needle.
Both Carter and Wright, who are freshmen on the Huskies basketball team, grew up in New York but are happy to be on this coast. Carter is from Rochester while Wright grew up in Albany, which is more than three hours away. They came to Seattle thanks to Mike Hopkins, a longtime Syracuse assistant.
Carter and Wright knew Hopkins for years, so it only made sense when he needed more players at his first head coaching job. Even if it meant moving more than 2,500 miles.
“It hasn’t really been a tough transition,” Carter said. “Of course, the weather is kinda better here. You get the full experience of every season. New faces. New people. So that’s a transition, too.”
Carter committed to the Huskies first after initially signing with Dayton. He was released from his commitment when Flyers coach Archie Miller left to coach the Indiana Hoosiers.
Schools started pursuing Carter. There was one day when his mother, Lonnie Moore, said she got a phone call from Hopkins immediately after he took the UW job.
She was on board with her son playing for Hopkins. But like any parent, she wanted to see where her child would spend the next four years.
“Even if it was in China, I would have supported him,” Moore said. “For him to go to Seattle … he just turned 18 and I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I got an iPhone so I could FaceTime with him and he said, ‘Mom. Welcome to the new age.’”
Wright said UW was already in his top five even when Carter signed with Dayton. Carter and Wright were close friends and AAU teammates for more than five seasons.
Carter called Wright to ask him what he thought about the Huskies.
They talked and Wright said UW was still a school he was considering. Soon after Carter chose the Huskies, Wright said it was pretty clear he was coming to Montlake.
“One of my favorite coaches from the recruiting process, the coach I have the most trust for, is coming out to Washington. So is one of my close friends that I’ve been with for five or six years,” Wright said. “All the signs seemed clear once all those things fell into place.”
Carter and Wright’s move has also been a transition for their families.
Wright said his mother and 14-year-old sister recently moved to Seattle to be with him. Wright said no matter where he went to college, his mom and sister were going to move there so they could try something different.
Moore still lives in Rochester. But having the Pac-12 Network makes it easier for her to watch games and feel like she’s in the Alaska Airlines Arena. Moore said another part of her routine is to wear her UW hat and hoodie.
“I’m so hyped for every game and I watch no matter how late it goes on,” Moore said. “If he has a 8 p.m. game that’s 11 p.m. here and I’m watching that game until the final seconds. Sometimes, I’m too hyped to go to sleep.
“I’m texting him and watching every single game. I don’t care how late it comes on.”
As one would expect, there are a few other differences between home and college. Such as how aggressive the area is when it comes to recycling.
“Paper over plastic was a big surprise for me,” Carter said. “You gotta get a paper bag and it’s hard to take it without it ripping.”
Or how there’s more bicycle lanes in Seattle.
“They ride bikes but its way more encouraged out here. Bikers are a priority out here.”
Wright said he’s never eaten this much Chinese food or Teriyaki.
“At first, it was cool because I was eating a lot,” Wright said. “But now? it’s like ‘C’mon man. I can’t keep eating this.’”
So what about the Seattle pizza? It’s not like New Yorkers are serious about pizza or anything.
“I don’t even buy pizza out here,” Wright said. “When we went back to New York (for the 2K Classic) at the beginning of the season, that’s all I bought.”
Carter and Wright are also enjoying what they’ve done on the court this season too.
They’ve helped the Huskies (19-10, 9-7 Pac-12) to a surprise season while building buzz about UW snapping its six-year NCAA Tournament drought.
Carter is averaging 5.2 points and has become a constant on the highlight reel with his mesmerizing dunks. Wright averages around 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds to become a trusted member of UW’s bench.
Friends have noticed how well they’re each playing even if it means overlooking one tiny detail.
“One of my friends, I told him I committed to Washington … he said, ‘You’re going to D.C.?” Wright recalled. “I was like, ‘D.C.? Bro. I’m going across the country. What are you talking about?’”