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How Wright has adjusted ... and other cool things

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Freshmen don't really know the challenges they're going to face when they step on the court - for practices or for games. They don't know how hard life as a college basketball player is going to be. They might think they know, but, as Mick Cronin theorizes, they really don't.

 

That philosophy is one explanation why, entering Wednesday's 7 p.m. game at St. John's, redshirt freshman point guard Cashmere Wright - who, as you'll remember, was a top-100 recruit coming out of Urban Christian Academy in Savannah, Ga. - is averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 assists in 17.8 minutes per game while shooting 31.7 percent from the floor and 30 percent from the 3.

 

It's perhaps one reason why Wright lost his starting job when Cronin moved senior guard Deonta Vaughn back to the point guard spot and, at times, looks lost and inconsequential on the floor.

 

This was the thought Cronin had last week, a few days before Wright played one of his better games in recent times vs. Seton Hall. Though Wright came off the bench again, he logged 17 minutes, hit three of his four shots and recorded seven points and five assists (against just one turnover). For a player who had scored only 12 points and dished five assists in his previous four games, it was a pretty nice confidence-booster.

 

But Wright insists he had no grand illusions before the season started. Though he's a rookie, he says he knew how tough life was going to be his first time playing collegiate basketball.

 

"I knew it was going to be harder that what everybody thought it would be for me," Wright said. "From watching last year and being a part of the team, I realized that it wasn't as easy as everybody thought it was.

 

"Since the UConn game (where he recorded three points, three turnovers and just one assist), my confidence level has gone up. It's just knowing that I have the ability to play. Everything started to slow down, and my confidence level was right. Everything has started to work out. (The game has) slowed down tremendously. Coach Cronin started talking to me more and showing me things in the game film and showing me how I can improve, where my mistakes were coming, what I did to cause my mistakes and how I can improve them."

 

Like Cronin said, not every freshman can play like a Lance Stephenson or a John Wall. Some freshmen are just ordinary, non-NBA prospects. For those players, it takes time to adjust. Even for those that find themselves in the starting lineup at the beginning of their career.

 

"When I first came in and I was starting, I was thinking, 'OK, I can do this,'" Wright said. "He put me on the bench and made me hungry and made me realize that I had to work to get back to where I was."

 

--Freshman Lance Stephenson leads the team with 12.7 points per game (though Vaughn has 17.8 to Stephenson's 15.3 in Big East play) and his 4.8 rebounds rank third on the team behind Yancy Gates and Rashad Bishop. His three-point shooting has been rather unimpressive (a percentage of 15.8), but overall, he's had a nice start to his collegiate career.

 

But that doesn't mean he doesn't need to work on his game, because Cronin clearly thinks he does.

 

"Two things: all freshmen need to become more consistent, especially on the defensive end, and offensively for Lance, sometimes he's in 'all drive' mode and sometimes he's in 'all pass' mode," Cronin said. "He needs to do a better job of letting the defense dictate what he's doing."

 

Cronin points to an example. Against the Pirates last Saturday, Stephenson, while he was in "drive mode," moved into the lane toward the hoop and drew a charging foul. Cronin says he should have passed the ball instead of taking it to the rim, but because he had tunnel vision and was thinking "Drive, drive, drive," Stephenson couldn't get out of his own way.

 

"He needs to be in 'play basketball' mode," Cronin said. "Sometimes he decides what he's doing to do before seeing what the defense is giving him. I'd like to see him make the read."

 

--According to the Sporting News, quarterback Tony Pike and receiver Mardy Gilyard have been invited to next month's NFL Combine. That sounds about right.

 

It's still possible other players can be invited, but there aren't any other Bearcats that would jump out to me as big-time pro prospects. Maybe linebacker Andre Revels or tackle Jeff Linkenbach could snag an invite, but other than those two, I can't think of anybody.

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