When life was about to swallow him, the teenager ran until his legs were numb and shot basketballs until his arms felt like they would fall off.
And he ended up turning to a doctor who always wanted a son.
Three decades have faded the memory of what Frank Wright did on the basketball court at Susquehannock High. He never became a college star. He never became a big-time coach.
He stayed in sports but away from the spotlight, umpiring and refereeing. Playing in alumni hoop games.
His name was placed on a plaque in the school trophy case, and many passed by and never understood.
They probably didn't realize that Wright became one of the most prolific scorers the YCIAA, and now the YAIAA, has ever known.
And here's the most astounding part: He scored so many points (1,646) from all over the court without the benefit of four seasons (freshmen were ineligible then) and without a string of district and state playoff games.
And, sad to say, without a 3-point shot.
He scored so much that he was the league's all-time leading scorer when he graduated and still is in the top 10, all these years later.
But none of it would have happened if he didn't do things most athletes never do.
He often ran to school as the sun rose, five or six miles from New Freedom to Glen Rock, to gain enough stamina to wear down opponents during games -- and to give himself time to shoot baskets in the gym before classes started each day.
He often played on outside courts by himself for hours at time, simply shooting and dribbling. He carried a basketball around with him everywhere, even dribbling it the back rows of a movie theater, his girlfriend putting up with the routine on dates.
And, when his parents split apart and moved out of state, Wright stayed at Susquehannock, in part, because of the kindness of Robert Altland, a local doctor. Altland always wanted a son, and Wright needed a home.
From then on, the kid always had someone in the stands watching.
"There was security there," Wright said. "At least I knew someone was paying attention."
It had never been an easy home life. Wright helped care for his five younger siblings on weekends and never knew his biological father well.
So he threw himself into basketball the way almost no one does.
Ask the right people, and you'll hear the stories:
Like the time he shot so poorly in a game that he immediately found an outside court and tortured himself in the cold with 90 more minutes of shooting -- nearly blowing out his shoulder in the process.
Or the time against Dover when he barreled down the court on a fast break and literally leaped over an undersized guard while somehow keeping his dribble. The opposing coach, dumbfounded, argued for a violation that was never called.
Terry Rynearson, the Susquehannock junior varsity coach at the time, remembers it all.
"He had a tremendous work ethic, and he could run all day without getting tired. ... And if there was a 3-point shot, who knows where his total would have ended up?"
He averaged 29 points per game in a season, but it was how he scored that was the story.
Those long, arcing, fade-away shots from outrageous distances. How he'd let it fly from as deep in the corner as possible at Susquehannock's old band box, momentum carrying him into the first rows of bleachers.
Division II schools noticed and sent offers, but he chose to play at York College, work a factory job and stay close to his girlfriend.
Wright, 53, still umpires and referees and works the factory line these days.
And he is still grateful for Altland, the doctor who helped raise him and taught him about responsibility and pushed him to college.
He seems content by it all.
Even if three decades later, kids still pass by his name on the plaque in the high school trophy case and really don't understand.
Reach Frank Bodani at 771-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.