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Archive for Monday, November 14, 2005

Unselfish Wright hopes to build on debut

November 14, 2005

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The 2,000 or so fans who left Allen Fieldhouse with five minutes to play Wednesday night might consider staying for the entire Kansas University-Pittsburg State basketball exhibition game tonight.

Some of the best plays often are saved for last.

Proof of that: Julian Wright's flurry in the final 39 seconds of the Jayhawks' 96-62 victory over Fort Hays State.

Wright -- in case you missed it -- single-handedly made sure all 12 Jayhawks who played had a chance to score. First, he fed walk-on Matt Kleinmann for a layup at :39, then stole the ball and dished cross-court to a wide-open Jeremy Case, who drilled a three -- also his only points of the game -- right before the final horn.

"He took care of them, but that's who Julian is. He's unselfish to a fault. That's why everybody in the country wanted him," KU coach Bill Self said of the 6-foot-8 Chicagoan, who again will come off the bench during tonight's KU-Pitt State game. Tipoff is 7 p.m., with a live telecast on channels 13 and 38 (Sunflower Broadband Channel 15).

"He cares about all the important things -- sharing, getting as much enjoyment from making a good pass as making a basket."

Wright -- he finished his first college game with eight points, eight boards and four assists -- made it a point to focus his eyes on Kleinmann and Case late.

"Our team huddled up and said, 'Hey we all want to get on the board,''' Wright said. "Nobody said, 'Give it to 'em right now,' but time was running out, at least give everyone looks.

"It's what we do in practice, make sure everybody gets involved. I just felt it was a defining moment. It was a good way to start the season, everybody scoring, everybody being part of it because we work so hard at practice."

Wright said the buckets by Kleinmann and Case went according to last-minute design.

"Matt had a size advantage. I threw it right to him. I knew he'd take care of business," Wright said of the tall redhead.

"I was aware of it (the fact Case was the only remaining Jayhawk to not score) once I got the ball back. Rather than take a shot I know I was going to miss, I'd rather throw it to Jeremy, who was going to take care of business."

Swish from Case ... and everybody went home smiling.

Wright had a much better second half than first.

He missed his only first-half shot and had two turnovers in 11 minutes. He hit two of five shots and four of five free throws while grabbing five rebounds over 12 minutes the second half.

"Everybody in 'Kansas basketball-land' is probably telling me to slow down," Wright said. "I understand that. I don't get nervous. I just kind of get anxious and run all over the place. I just want to slow down and let the game come to me."

Self, who loves Wright's enthusiasm, believes the McDonald's All-American is just time away from being a college standout.

"Julian is a great passer," Self said of the 212-pounder, who is being used at the power forward position, but still winds up on the perimeter on certain possessions.

"Sometimes he makes easy passes too difficult. I know it's something his high school coach told him 1,000 times. He just has to get comfortable. He's got it in him. The game just has got to slow down to him a little bit. He gets so excited, he wants to make a play before he catches the ball."

Wright -- it's expected he'll play small forward and shooting guard before his career at KU is over -- has tackled the challenge of playing inside head-on.

"It's more mental and using my quickness right now," Wright said. "I'm ready to play wherever they need me to play."

Tonight's foe, Pitt State, has just one player as tall as 6-8, so Wright won't be facing any big-time size disadvantages like he does at practice when he goes against Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson and C.J. Giles.

"He's been down there with the big boys. He's doing pretty good. He's got some moves but they bump him around," freshman Brandon Rush said.

"Sasha muscles everybody out, but Julian is down there holding his own," freshman Mario Chalmers said.

"He's doing well down low. He's a lot quicker. He's just got to get stronger like me last year," sophomore Giles added.

Wright, who played both inside and out at Homewood-Flossmoor High, hopes to show improvement at the '4-spot' tonight.

"I think we'll be much more polished and have a better understanding of playing in front of a crowd," Wright said. "Hopefully we'll be more fluid in the offense and improve from the first game."

¢ Darnell Jackson, who missed the exhibition opener because of an undisclosed eligibility issue, may play tonight.

"Hopefully he plays. We hope to get word back that allows him to play tomorrow," Self said Sunday night. "It's not a definite. We believe there's a good chance that will occur. We as a staff are hopeful he will be able to play."

¢ Self said as of Sunday night he planned to start Jeff Hawkins, Russell Robinson, Brandon Rush, Christian Moody and Sasha Kaun.

"We'll play 10, 11 guys. We might try to tighten some things up as far as we may not be concerned playing everybody equal minutes," he said. "We are going to look at different combinations."

¢ Here's what Self wants out of Game Two: "Carryover from the Fort Hays State game where we are a little more sound defensively and get some guys some more experience and hopefully play with the same type of effort and intensity. We will have to earn the points we get and do a good job defending certain actions which will prepare us for Idaho State and Arizona."

¢ KU assistant Tim Jankovich worked for Pittsburg State coach Gene Iba at Baylor during the 1991-92 season.

"Jank is as good as it gets," Iba said. "Bill (Self) and Tim are two of my favorite people. If anything, coach Jankovich is too smart for this business. I told him that," Iba said laughing.

¢ Pittsburg State went 23-7 last year and reached the Round of 32 in the NCAA Div. II national tournament.

¢ The Gorillas, who lost four starters and six seniors off last years team, have been picked third of nine teams in the MIAA coaches preseason poll. Central Missouri State and SW Baptist were ahead of PSU.

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