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Wright seeing all the angles

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Cashmere Wright is quietly becoming one of the top point guards in the Big East and has the numbers to prove it. (Photo special to GoBearcats.com/Patrick Strang)

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CINCINNATI -- A blur of bodies peeled off screens and sprinted across the baseline on Tuesday night. Cashmere Wright dribbled at the top of the key, paused and pulled back.

 

Instead of moving the ball around the perimeter, Wright held on for one last second. With the extra moment he snapped a pass behind two Eagles defenders not paying attention and into the outstretched arms of Justin Jackson under the hoop. Jackson turned and finished an easy layup.

 

To the average viewer, nothing was open and it was time to swing the ball. Heck, to 2009 Cashmere Wright, nothing was open and it was time to swing the ball.

 

But the floor looks different know for the redshirt sophomore point guard. He anticipates angles and lines up lanes few others see.

 

In the year of sharing the basketball and the sum of the parts being greater than the whole at UC, Wright is the poster child.  

 

For that reason, the scores look different now for the Cincinnati Bearcats: 99, 92, 81, 77.

 

"I really think Cashmere Wright is a big, big difference in our team," Mick Cronin said. "Right now he's playing like a high-level point guard. He's starting to read defenses and understand offense. He's doing a great job of keeping his dribble alive and picking his spots. He's evolving and as he evolves into one of the better guards in the Big East it is going to give us a chance to beat  anybody."

 

By the numbers, he's already among the better guards in the Big East. In his last five games, he distributed 21 assists to five turnovers.

 

Wright is currently tied for fifth in the conference in assist to turnover ratio (2.5). Upon closer inspection, if you take away the opener against Mount St. Mary's where Wright struggled mightily in his season debut with five turnovers, he's the conference leader at 3.2.

 

The victory over Georgia Southern served as the latest example. Wright used bounce passes through crowded areas in the lane, picked his spots to score with nine points and helped all four other starters to double figures.

 

His stat line of 9 points and 7 assists doesn't do justice to the effect on the game. Consider he only played 19 minutes and at least two of his assists culminated in missed layups.

 

Gates enjoyed the benefits of Wright's court vision on many occasions this year and holds his theories on the secret to Wright's success.

 

"It's all part of us getting used to playing with each other," Gates said. "I think he is just getting more comfortable with where everybody is going to be on the court and he is able to make the pass with more confidence and a lot easier instead of maybe seeing him late he already knows he's there."

 

Wright overcame a small stumbling block early in the season when he spent too much time trying to involve teammates and couldn't find a balance in looking for his own shot. Without the threat to score his threat to pass lacked real bite.

 

He's currently averaging 10 points and 4.4 assists per game. He also knocked down 16 of his last 17 free throws.

 

He reached double figures in five of the last seven games. Wright only managed double figures five times all of last season.

 

The comparisons to last season are difficult to make, though. Wright was lost in the shuffle of Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn needing touches all the while trying to play point guard on the college level for the first time.

 

Wright never found a rhythm. He never found his place.

 

"It was probably unrealistic to envision him playing like this (last year)," Cronin said. "He didn't play point guard in high school. He had great quickness, he could shoot, but he didn't' run a team his whole life. Teaching him how to run a team has been a process."

 

Perhaps the fact Wright's still enduring the process should be the biggest reason for optimism in Clifton. He's just now starting to figure it out.

 

Every game provides film of passes he made or should have made and lessons to take into the next week.

 

"In the game you can see one thing from one point of view," Wright said. "When you watch tape you see what you missed. When you see it, it's more likely to be the same thing next game.

 

"When I come off the picks my first option is the wrong option most times, I have to wait, dribble the ball some more and then the second option comes open. That's just how it's been working out for me."

 

It's been working out great. Wright said he was "on a high," after the latest win against Georgia Southern. The confidence and smile are as undeniably different as his stats.

 

What Wright is learning, both in set plays and in life, is the importance of patience. Cronin views it as a maturation that only comes with time. Learning the intricacies of the point guard position entails long hours and rough games, but Wright emerged this year a product of his own persistence.

 

"He is growing up as a person," Cronin said. "That's one thing Oscar Robertson always talks about since I've met him. When guys grow up off the floor it translates into maturity on the floor and affects their play in a positive way.

 

"You see that with a lot of our guys, but Cash is a great example."

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