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Archive for Friday, December 23, 2005

Keegan: Kansas’ Wright will thrill

December 23, 2005

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Sometimes a basketball coach will say something that sticks in your head forever. In this case, the coach was Lute Olson, and the words were spoken from a podium in Maui, Hawaii.

"I tell my players all the time I hate great passes," Olson said.

It seemed a strange statement, until he finished it.

"Great passes are usually low-percentage passes," Olson said.

Simple yet brilliant words.

Think about it. Simple passes are caught ... and not by cheerleaders.

Late in the first half of Kansas University's 85-62, Thursday-night dismissal of overmatched and winless Northern Colorado, Julian Wright threw a beauty of a no-look pass into a row of cheerleaders. Unfortunately, the cheerleaders stand out-of-bounds, and none of them answers to the name Darnell Jackson. Other than that, it was a great pass.

It was one of Wright's three turnovers in 19 minutes on a night he otherwise showed the sooner he polishes his game, the better for the Jayhawks' fortunes. He contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

Wright is so explosive, and for a player who stands 6-foot-8, so quick that he makes a ton of things happen and does so in such entertaining fashion. Long and lean and agile to the point of being almost wiggly, Wright never disappears on the court. The same can't always be said for his self-control.

He's a gifted passer. Sometimes too gifted.

"Julian's going to have some turnovers because of the way he plays, and we're going to have to live with some of them, but a couple of them, in my opinion, are just non-basketball-type plays," KU coach Bill Self said.

What, the no-look, sis-boom-bah pass isn't in the playbook?

"Julian makes the game easier for others by getting them easy baskets," Self said. "But he can also make the game more complicated than what it is."

An avid baseball fan, Self said he wanted Wright, "hitting singles, instead of going up there and swinging for the fences."

Like George Brett, who sat behind the Northern Colorado bench as a guest of athletic director Jay Hinrichs, Wright has enough natural power to his game, he'll hit home runs without trying.

Wright said he found it particularly difficult to calm down in games at Allen Fieldhouse because "I love playing here so much."

He's juiced on the road, too juiced by the crowd at home. In 66 minutes at the Fieldhouse, Wright has 12 turnovers. In 97 minutes elsewhere, he has seven turnovers.

"Coach talked to us at halftime about when you think about it, one play in a big game, one mental mistake, can cost us," Wright said. "So many of us are so hungry for playing time, we know that coach can easily replace us if we make that mental mistake. I just took it as another learning experience in college basketball. And in the second half, I calmed down. I'm learning to take what they give me."

Even when he slows himself down to cut down on the spills, Wright supplies plenty of thrills.

Now, as for the daily update as to who should start KU's next game, that's an easy one. Drum roll, please. Jason Swanson should, but at the first sign of trouble, it will be time to call upon Brian Luke, a better relief pitcher than starter.

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