One of the worst moments for any aspiring player is having to wait for that first NBA experience. Just sitting at the end of the bench and hoping that coach calls your name can be as nerve wracking as it is for a guard going into the lane and seeing Rudy Gobert come out of nowhere to make the monster block. Just getting to be on a NBA roster is difficult, but then having to wait for that first call can sometimes never occur. Just ask a guy like Tony Gaffey who was on the roster of his home team Boston Celtics and rival Los Angeles Lakers in the same season, but never played a second for either team. For a guy like Ishmail Wainright (196-G/F-94, college: Baylor) who has experienced the full Cinderella story in his career playing in the German second division only three years ago reached the NBA this season with the Phoenix Suns, but had to wait a while before being inserted for the first time against the Dallas Mavericks and in his second game scored his first NBA basket against the Denver Nuggets driving in from the wing and making a crisp lay up. Ex teammate Brandon Jefferson who played with him in France last season with Strasburg knows it must have been difficult for him to have to go through such a long time before playing his first NBA minute, but all in all had the needed patience to stick it out. ‘Ish is competitive and wants to play of course, but he knew that he would have to wait his turn and that his opportunity would come! Before the season, Ish told us that he wanted to be in the NBA someday and he made it happen. He had a great season and him being with the Uganda national team helped a lot also! He got to showcase his talent’, stressed ex Phoenix Hagen guard Brandon Jefferson. ‘ We still have a group message from the imports last season, and we all said no matter when your time comes, ‘keep your head up, we’re all proud of you and what you’ve achieved. When your name is called, just be ready’, explained SIG Strasburg guard Deandre Lansdowne. Of course hard work, timing and luck have aided Ishmail Wainwright in reaching the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, but there has also been something else. Royce O’Neale of the Utah Jazz played in the easyCredit BBL as a rookie and with Strasburg his second season while Wainright did the same with the only difference being that the Sun had a steeper road to go beginning in the German Pro A. More than two seasons ago when he was a rookie, he already had massive thoughts about what O’Neale had done and where his journey could go. ‘I’m not saying it could happen to me but you never know what the future holds you know. God works in mysterious ways’, warned Ishmail Wainright. The one’s who truly knew him as a person and his game knew that it could become reality. ‘Not many people would’ve guessed, but some of us thought, if he got the chance, he deserved it. Character wise, but also because he extremely skilled’, stated ex Basketball Lowen Braunschweig American Deandre Lansdowne.
Ishmail Wainright who lists NBA player Buddy Hield as his toughest cover in the NCAA, because he had to know at all times where he was was born on September 12th, 1994 in Kansas City, Missouri. He split time at Montrose Christian high school and at Raytown South high school where he played his first two seasons. There he averaged 13.6 points and 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore in 2010-11. He then finished his high school career at Montrose where he aided the team to a 19-5 record as a senior in 2012-13. He earned 2013 All-MET honors after averaging 8.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists for the school. He then played at Baylor (NCAA) from 2013-2017 playing a total of 131 games where he was a sports management major. In his first two seasons he didn’t average more than 1,9ppg and had some serious growing pains, but he survived his freshman year. He had some very good players as teammates with Brady Heslip, ex NBA player Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin, NBA player Royce O’ Neale, NBA player Jonathan Motley, and NBA player Tauren Prince. ‘That year was a grind. Practices was by far some of the toughest practices ever. We were all fighting for playing time. I loved every bit of it too’, stated Ishmail Wainright in 2019. In his last two seasons he became a solid two way player filling up the stat sheet and showing his vast versatility averaging 5.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.6apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 44.1%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 73.0% and as a senior averaged 5.5ppg, 5.1rpg, 3.2apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 29.2%, FT: 68.3%. He scored in double figures in 11 games, but even more important was that he helped his team reach the NCAA tournament 4 times in a row and made the Sweet 16 twice. The school has only reached the NCAA tournament 13 times dating back to 1946. He remembers exactly which one was sweeter. ‘2017 because it was my senior year, I was the only senior and we were picked last in the BIG12, wasn’t even ranked in pre-season. They laughed at us man. We started that season off on a mission. Non conference was tough but we took care of everyone. Conference play was conference play. The Big12 was stacked from head to toe. Everyone wanted us to lose in the first round of the tournament. We fought until the end’, remembered Ishmail Wainright. He once saw ex teammate and Belgium national player Manu Lecomte go off for 10 straight three’s in practice was lucky to have Scott Drew who has been instrumental in the school having so much success. ‘Hall of Fame coach for sure. He treated us like professionals since day one. Talked to us like one. Worked us like one. He used to tell us, ‘ You guys want to be professionals someday, you have to walk, talk, eat, work, and take care of your bodies like professionals do’, stressed Ishmail Wainright.
The American who lists Kenny Cherry, himself, Royce O’Neale, Taurean Prince, and Isaiah Austin in 2018 as the best starting five he has been a part of didn’t turn professional right away in 2017, but instead remained at Baylor (NCAA) and put his strong 235 pound body to good use playing football catching 4 passes for 34 yards and 2 touchdowns. He finally turned professional in 2018 moving to Germany to play for the Nurnberg Falcons (Germany Pro A) playing 39 games averaging 12.1ppg, Reb-5 (7.3rpg), 2.8apg, Steals-5 (1.7spg), FGP: 65.0%, 3PT: 33.0%, FT: 74.8%. He needed no real adjustment period having played a season of football. He was able to use his strength to the full advantage and is still doing it today. ‘My weight really helped realizing that most players aren’t as strong as I am so I can use that to my advantage’, expressed Ishmail Wainright. He was an instrumental part of Nurnberg making a surprise visit to the final losing to the Hamburg Towers. They won their last 11 games to reach the playoffs. ‘We came together and knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to do something that hasn’t been done in years’, said Ishmail Wainright in 2019. He scored in double figures in 25 games and being that lethal and consistent scorer was no surprise to him. He just didn’t need to show it at Baylor. ‘When you are playing with Pros like Isaiah Austin (China) , Corey Jefferson (NBA), Brady Heslip (BBL), Royce O’Neale (NBA), Taurean Prince (NBA), Johnathon Motley (NBA), And Rico Gathers (NFL), and others, I didn’t need to score in my mind’, remembered Ishmail Wainright in 2019. He had monster games against Rostock with 26 points and 17 boards and 26 points and 11 rebounds against Chemnitz. He was also very fortunate to play for a very experienced head coach Ralph Junge who has a track record of developing young players that is unmatched. ‘With this being my first year in Germany, Ralph has helped a lot. I mean a lot a lot because basketball is just different. He’s helped with just understanding the style and the movements with and without the ball. The automatic reads on the floor. He also encouraged me to just go play and kill whoever is in front of me. ‘, commented Ishmail Wainright in 2019 who’s toughest opponent as a rookie was Trier’s Canadian Jermaine Bucknor. The team success as a rookie was vital in him landing in Europe and making the next step to the easyCredit BBL. ‘That being the first year it went pretty good but I’m extremely hard on myself. I know I can give more. I have to give more. I have A LOT of work to do. My game grew in many different ways. And far as being a leader, that just came with everything. You have to want that. And I want that. And I feel like the team this year allowed that to happen. We had a great team and we all worked well together’, remembered Ishmail Wainright in 2019.
In his second professional season the ex Baylor player who’s toughest opponent in the BBL was Alba Berlin’s Luke Sikma made the next step to the easyCredit BBL playing with Rasta Vechta. He continued to make strides in his game as he played in 2 higher leagues BBL playing 26 games and averaging 10.4ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.5apg, Steals-3 (1.8spg), FGP: 64.7%, 3PT: 24.7%, FT: 77.6%; and played 13 Basketball Champions League games averaging 10.7ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.8apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 67.9%. ‘I came in with a chip on my shoulder and will continue to have that throughout my whole career’, warned Ishmail Wainright in 2020. He had a great season stat wise and needed no adjustment period even if it was a massive step coming from the Pro A to the BBL. ‘I was trying to be the 1st steal getter in the BBL this year. But the toughest adjustment was really , the players. They are smart. Older. And also our style of defense. I love what Pedro does on the defense standpoint of the game. Play to the limit and I will carry that with me where ever I go throughout my career. My game has developed a lot and still will continue. Shooting the ball. Scoring off the dribble. Finding my spot on the floor. Things I still have to work on to being one of those top guys in Europe’, stated Ishmail Wainright in 2020. He will never forget this season because it was interrupted by Covid-19 as there will always be what if questions. ‘There will always be a what If. Before the break we were in 6th and just got things rolling. Down to 1 game a week. Guys were starting to really feel their game and we were clicking. You never know what would’ve ‘ happened. I will cherish the fans. The team. Pedro and the coaching staff, man, it was an amazing year. Everyone knows about RASTA now on the international level. What more can you ask for? I loved every bit of it’, added Ishmail Wainright in 2020. He proved at the international level that he could hold his own against top players in the Basketball Champions League as he scored in double figures in 7 games including 19 points against Anwil and 16 points against AEK Athens. His teammates like Jarelle Reischel will always have him in their memories. ‘I used to call him Issaaaaahhhhhhhhmeeeeee! Hard working on the court and off the court and a very positive likeable guy that I enjoyed playing with’, said Jarelle Reischel. Even his BBL opponents like legend Quantez Robertson is happy that he made the NBA. ‘I remember him being a strong forward who could stretch the floor and shoot the ball. He had a pretty good season in Germany and even better one in France. It didn’t surprise me that he made the NBA. It just shows what can happen if you perfect your game, work hard and have decent numbers. You can get a look anywhere. I think he could remain in the NBA. The game has changed a lot. Teams are always looking for guys who can shoot and defend’, warned ex Auburn (NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson.
In his third professional season he made another jump playing for top French team SIG Strasbourg (France-Jeep ELITE ProA) playing 36 games averaging 11.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.5apg, Steals-5 (1.8spg), FGP: 62.2%, 3PT: 32.0%, FT: 72.6%; and played 14 BCL games averaging 10.2ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.3apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 38.1%, FT: 82.6%. He scored in double figures in 25 Pro A games including netting 19 points against Levallois and Chalon and in the Basketball Champions League scored in double figures in 9 games including 19 points against Tenerife. Here he had great talent around him and was teammates with two ex BBL players Deandre Lansdowne and Brandon Jefferson as well as ex NBA player Bonzie Colson. It really doesn’t matter who talks about Wainright, but the love is always huge for him and Lansdowne who like Wainwright also made a steep trip up the basketball ladder beginning in Germany’s third league. ”I really look up to guys like Ish. Ish is my guy. He is a great player and person. We room and often talk about our college days. He is always pushing everyone in practice. Every team should have a guy like him. They always come to work with a smile on their faces. They are an inspiration for all’, warned Bonzie Colson Jr in 2021. Everybody looks up to Ish. ‘Just being in the trenches with Ish last season as we made our run in BCL and in French league was great. We went through a lot of ups and downs and he was always the same. Would come in with a smile! I’m glad he’s made his dream come true, but now the work really begins! Ish will do big things in his career’, warned ex Metropolitan State University of Denver (NCAA2) stand out Brandon Jefferson in 2021. The trio of Wainwright, Jefferson and Colson were very special, but the team wouldn’t have had the success if it hadn’t have had the services of Deandre Lansdowne who gave his special touch to the team. ‘Some games would get lost and I would hit Ish with an extra pass and he’d hit a corner three and he’d say ‘Thank you Dre! ‘. With a big smile. just always made me realize even in a game you’re not scoring much, it can take one thing and he’s still so positive’, stressed Deandre Lansdowne
The American who lists Scottie Pippen, Lebron James, Tony Allen, and Magic Johnson on his NBA Mount Rushmore is a tweener that has a game similar to Draymond Green that can bring the ball up, rebound, defend the positions 1-4 and basically do whatever the team needs. Defense is easily his recipe to being the successful player that he is today. ‘I’ve always been a defender. It’s just in my blood. Watching Tony Allen lock up the NBA just fired me up. I want be that player that stays on the court because he can hold the other team’s best player from start to finish. Rebounding and just getting my teammates involved. I love when my teammates score’, warned Ishmail Wainright in 2019. It is no secret that a big strength is his rebounding. Any big man that he plays with knows that if a rebound does get lost, Ish will be around the corner to scoop it up. ‘It’s just a mindset. You aren’t going to stop me from getting that ball off the rim. If you do, believe me, I won’t stop going after it. And that’s the mindset you have to have’, warned Ishmail Wainright in 2019. If he is having a bad shooting day, then it will always be his defense that will pick up his game like deflections which is a hidden strength in his game. ‘I’ve always prided myself on deflections. I want to get the most deflections and at a high rate too. It’s just something that’s followed me throughout college. Even in practices I do the same’, said Ishmail Wainright in 2019.
In the last year he made waves with the Ugandan national team as he showed his all around game and exploded for an incredible 36 points against Cape Verde and also added 13 boards and 7 dimes. This happened at the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 qualifiers where he led the tournament in scoring and was fifth in rebounding and assists averaging 21.3ppg, Reb-5 (8.3rpg), Assists-5 (5.7apg), 1.0spg. He continued to perform at a high level at the FIBA AfroBasket in Rwanda where he was fifth in rebounding and first in assists playing 5 games averaging 12.6ppg, 9.4rpg, 6.4apg), 2.0spg, FGP: 32.4%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 70.6%. He also registered a superb triple double of 22/12/10 against South Sudan. His excellent play in Europe and continued rise up the ladder plus his domination in the FIBA AfroBasket put NBA teams on his radar. His ascension to the NBA began last summer with the Toronto Raptors where he signed a 2 year non-guaranteed contract and played NBA Summer League averaging 7.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.2apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 40.0%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 80.0%. Despite a solid performance in the Summer League, he was waived on October 17th and was very close to making the team, but his NBA dream didn’t end there. Only a short time later on October 22, he signed a two way deal with the Phoenix Suns. He couldn’t have landed on a better team. He may not be playing much, but he is enjoying the current incredible run as the team has a 17 game winning streak and beat the Golden State Warriors last night. So far he has played 3 games.It is no surprise for me that he has made his NBA dream a reality. Ish is so much more than just a magnificent versatile player, but so much more. Just being his teammate is a fabulous experience that is rarely seen. ‘When I hear Ish’s name, I always think about how his energy and smile is contagious. You can be having a bad day and when you get around Ish, your whole mood changes. Ish is able to adapt to wherever he is. Ish being himself attracts a lot of people to him. Dude is a joy to be around! He was the X factor for our team last year in Strasbourg. He did a lot of things that didn’t show up on the stat sheet that helped us win a lot of games! He even ran point forward for us occasionally’, remembered current Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (France-Betclic ELITE ProA) point guard Brandon Jefferson. It will be interesting to see if Ish can remain in the NBA? Just checking the Suns box score every morning in Germany is an experience and fun to see if he got in or had to witness a DNP. His own self confidence and that of his ex teammates is huge for him being able to stick in the NBA. ‘As long as Ish stays locked in, he can do whatever he wants to do’, warned Brandon Jefferson. He has so much going for him that everyone is rooting for him. ‘He just enjoys every moment. Through ups and downs, he’s always smiling, he’s always having fun. He does everything, from understanding the game, can shoot, create for others, rebound, defend, and is always the loudest on the floor, which is a rare trait’, remembered Fort Lewis College (NCAA 2) guard Deandre Lansdowne. All eyes are on Ishmail Wainright as he continues to claw his way through the NBA especially those of 2021 NBA MVP Jaleen Smith. Smith was in his second professional season and Wainright was a rookie when they battled 6 times during the 2018-2019 season. Wainright got the best of him having a 4-2 record and winning the playoff series 3-1. Last summer both played in the NBA Summer League as Smith opted to go back and become a Euroleague player instead of taking the risk of reaching a NBA roster in training camp and then possibly being cut making his trek back to Europe more difficult finding a team in October. The risk for Wainright paid off as he is in the NBA. Smith will always have a what if, but at the same time is happy to be with Alba Berlin and battling the best players every week in Europe. The respect from Smith was always there for Wainright, but has grown even more with his arrival in the NBA. ‘Ish worked hard to get to the NBA. He went from Germany Pro A to Germany BBL to France LNB to now play for the Phoenix Suns and seeing someone make it not even the easy way. He really took the long route to get to the league and he’s a down to earth guy. Nobody deserved it more than Ish himself’, warned Alba Berlin guard Jaleen Smith. There won’t be any haters toward Ishmail Wainright simply because you just have to love his journey, game and his character.