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Eli Wright was born in the South Side of Robinson, Illinois, to Craig and Tamra. He cites one of his older sisters, Marsha, as the individual most responsible for his basketball upbringing. His parents divorced and he lived with his mother, as well as his grandparents in Robinson, Illinois during his childhood. As a child growing up in the Illinois area Wright idolized former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, and has said he patterns his game after him.

Wright attended Robinson High School in Robinson, Illinois, playing for the school's varsity basketball team. While he did not accrue much playing time during his freshman year, his cousin, Ben Jones, a junior, was the star of the team. Wright grew four inches in the summer before his junior year and saw the role of team leader being given to him, as he averaging 23.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The following year, Wright averaged 28.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per game while leading his team to a 33-0 record. He then led his team to the IHSA Class 2A state championship, their third straight state title. During this season he set school records for points (703) and steals (125) in a season.

Wright was recruited by only three college basketball teams (Marquette University, Duke University, and USC) due to athletic injuries.

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