Last December, Sharone Wright found himself confronted by an unfair decision: his leg or his life.
The former Clemson basketball standout was suffering from a MRSA infection that led to compartment syndrome, a life-threatening condition caused by pressure buildup from internal bleeding or swelling of tissues.
“I really didn’t have a choice at all,” Wright said.
Eight months after his life-saving surgery, Wright is adapting to his prosthetic left leg.
“I’m learning how to walk with it now,” Wright said. “My plan is to walk again by December.”
Members of what he calls his “Clemson family” plan to help him do just that.
On Monday, a veritable who’s who of Clemson athletics will converge on the school’s Walker Golf Course to play a round for the sole purpose of helping their longtime friend.
“I must be a big deal,” Wright said, laughing.
Eighteen members of the Clemson Hall of Fame will be on hand for the Sharone Wright Benefit Golf Tournament, including 12 former Clemson basketball players and coaches as well as six former football players and coaches in the school’s Hall of Fame.
Dale Davis will be there, as will Tree Rollins, the leading scorer and rebounder in Clemson history.
The list also includes Elden Campbell, Horace Grant and Wayne Buckingham.
“It’s all love and family with Clemson and it has always felt like that with Dale, Elden, Horace, and Wayne,” Wright said. “And I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t call Larry Nance or we weren’t all jelling together as friends. I’m proud of that. You only get one set of friends in this world and that’s mine.”
Football Hall of Famers C.J. Spiller, Levon Kirkland, Donnell Woolford, Homer Jordan and James Trapp as well as coach Danny Ford also will be in attendance Monday as well as Hall of Fame basketball coach Cliff Ellis, which may mean the most to Wright.
Wright’s father died when he was a senior in high school in Macon, Georgia, and Ellis became more than a coach.
“That’s my second father right there,” Wright said. “Ever since the day my father died Coach Ellis has been there. He treated me like a son.
“If it’s 6 a.m. or late at night, I can call him. That’s a tribute to the man Cliff Ellis is – one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life.”
Wright also has a special kinship with former Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret.
“From the time I stepped foot on campus, he’s been my favorite person,” Wright said. “We have a brotherhood.”
Wright provided Bourret with plenty of memorable moments, and continues to rank third in program history in blocked shots and double-doubles despite playing only three seasons before turning pro. He was picked sixth overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1994 NBA Draft and went on to log six seasons in the NBA before embarking on a six-year career in Europe.
Buckingham, a former teammate of Wright’s at Clemson, was among the first to recognize Wright’s recent financial burdens. Wright battled prostate cancer in 2016, then incurred more astronomical medical bills associated with his MRSA hospitalization, surgeries and subsequent therapy.
“Wayne saw all the bills piling up – he saw the need,” Wright said. “I’ve got insurance, but a lot of times that doesn’t cover everything.”
Wright, who now lives in Chandler, Arizona, typically returns to Clemson “at least once a year,” but must now point toward 2021 for his next trip “home.”
“I can’t really travel right now with COVID and this condition I’ve got,” he said.
Despite that, Wright remains upbeat.
And confident that he’ll walk into Memorial Stadium and Littlejohn Coliseum sometime in 2021.
“God doesn’t put more on people that we can bear,” Wright said. “He chose me to go through this, but I haven’t been alone. The support and love I’ve gotten has been unbelievable.”