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Wright ready to take control of Bearcats

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He felt the self-pity grow soon after the doctors revealed his freshman season was over before it had even begun. He couldn't stop himself from moping, couldn't stop from feeling sorry for himself.

 

For many months, UC redshirt freshman point guard Cashmere Wright couldn't get over the fact that he had sustained an ACL tear during the first day of practice for the 2008-09 season. For many months, Wright still couldn't comprehend what had happened in the space of just a few seconds.

 

"I didn't get past it until January or February," said Wright, who, as you'll recall, was the nationally-ranked No. 12 point guard by rivals.com before committing to UC.  "It took a long time. First, you have to accept the fact you can't do anything about it and let it go. For the longest time, I was like, 'Naw, this can't be me. I can't believe this happened to me.' After a while, when you realize everybody is playing and you're not getting better and you can't go forward, you have to let it go."

 

When the injury first occurred, UC coach Mick Cronin told Wright he had a chance to learn, in depth, the position he would play after returning to health. There wasn't much else he could do as his knee healed. He could learn what Cronin would want from him, and he figured his experience last year will help as he takes the court now. Wright didn't gain any on-court experience last season. But he received another gift instead - the ability to step back from his life and appreciate how much he loves the game.

 

"He's matured a lot," junior center Anthony McClain said. "I can't put into words how he was, but as more of the season went along, he's became more serous about this. The ACL injury made him more mature. Life is short. You never know what can happen at any given moment. You have to give it your all every time."

 

Said junior forward Rashad Bishop: "I've seen a real big change in him. When he first got here, it was all about him. He sat out his first year and watched, and he figured out we really don't need him to come out and score. He can come out and be solid and get his teammates involved and get them shots. It's going to be big with him coming back. He's going to make everybody's job a lot easier. I had to fill in at point guard a little bit last year, and it will make my job easier. It will make Deonta's job a lot easier."

 

That was the major problem with Wright's injury last season. Since Cronin was counting on Wright so heavily to play the point guard spot, Deonta Vaughn - and a few others like Bishop and Dion Dixon - had to fill in as the No. 1 guard. That led to increased minutes for Vaughn (which Cronin has tried - and failed - to avoid the past three seasons), and he, once again, was clearly fatigued at the end of the year.

 

Wright watched him and felt the guilt.

 

"I felt like I let them down," he said. "I should be out there helping them and that made the transition even worse. It makes you feel bad."

 

Even now, though, Wright said he's not 100 percent healthy. Not necessarily in the medical sense, but in his preparedness for the season. Before last week's intrasquad scrimmage (there's another one this Saturday at 10 a.m., by the way), Wright hadn't played a competitive game of basketball in about 18 months - and no, summer league doesn't count.

 

"I'm still trying to get back in the groove of playing," Wright said. "Even during the scrimmage, I was nervous because I haven't played a game up and down the court in a year and a half. That's a big transition to try to do."

 

Now, though, he's back and ready to contribute to the squad. He'll compete with true freshman Jaquon Parker for playing time at the point guard spot, but he's just happy to be a part of the team again.

 

"I feel more comfortable with what I'm doing and what coach Cronin wants me to do," Wright said. "At the beginning of the scrimmage, I didn't know. I was just going with the flow and trying to feel my way out. After the scrimmage, I told my dad that it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders."


--If, for some reason, you still haven't purchased your copy of Bearcats Rising, there are still a few more opportunities for you to save your soul, beginning next Thursday at 7 p.m. That's when I'll be at the LaRosa's Pizza in Colerain with Kerry Coombs - who will be signing my book along with Cincinnati Schoolboy Legends authors John Baskin and Lonnie Wheeler. Two books, three authors, one intense associate head coach. All for the price of one. Seriously, what else is going on Thursday nights anyway?


Click here for the rest of my signing schedule.


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