Archive for Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wright makes right

January 24, 2006


His back has bothered him.

His foot has been sore.

And his stomach has churned wildly because of a flu bug.

Julian Wright certainly has had some bad days since enrolling at Kansas University last summer. He just never has let anybody know about them.

"I don't know what he's doing, but he's always happy -- nonstop," KU freshman Brandon Rush said with a grin. "I really like Julian. He's a cool guy."

He's KU's biggest chemistry guy -- somebody who boosts the team's spirits after strenuous practice sessions and/or deflating losses.

"He's a young-minded kid who has fun with everything," KU coach Bill Self said. "He's as good a kid as we have in our program."

The McDonald's All-American out of Homewood-Flossmoor High in Chicago says it's simply his nature to be upbeat.

"Yes, I'm always happy. I try to keep everyone's spirits high," Wright said. "The coaching staff gets on me if I make a mistake and am down.

"I always try to clap after somebody makes a good pass, clap after somebody makes a mistake. Clap all the time."

The 6-foot-8, 218-pounder has been a delight off the court, and he has been improving steadily on the court as well.

"He creates mismatches. He blows by the other team's 4-man (power forward) and creates openings for the rest of us," Rush said of Wright, who scored 12 points off 6-of-8 shooting with six rebounds and three assists in KU's 96-54 rout of Nebraska at Allen Fieldhouse.

Wright actually may be at his best creating for others.

"There's not a big man in America who passes the ball better than Julian," Self said of Wright, who promises to play more on the perimeter as his career progresses. "There's not many big men with a 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio like he has (28 assists, 27 turnovers). It's a pretty good assist-to-turnover ratio for number of minutes played."

Wright has logged an average of 16.2 minutes per game in 17 appearances for the Jayhawks, who take an 11-6 record into Wednesday's 7 p.m. contest at Texas A&M.;

"His ceiling is high, high, high," Self said of Wright, who averages 7.2 points off 52.9 percent shooting. "If not for some quirky things, he'd have been playing 22, 23 minutes a game since Day One. Whether sickness, his foot, back spasms ... those are things that kept him from playing a prominent role.

"You have to trust he'll not be perfect every time, but over time he'll be a guy who can deliver for you. He will impact this program in ways very few have if he stays the course, keeps doing what he's doing."

Wright, who has felt fine physically of late, said he could tell his coach has gained trust in him.

"There was one possession against Nebraska I thought I'd get subbed for (after committing a turnover)," Wright said. "Coach Self didn't sub me. I think coach may have more faith in me than earlier. I'll try to keep up the faith, the trust."

He can do that by eliminating unforced errors.

"If I am going to make an aggressive pass I have to really concentrate," Wright said. "Coach stresses really taking care of the ball. It makes me value the ball more.

"You've got to know when and where and pick your spots," Wright added of attempting the sensational pass. "A lot of guys now know where I pass the ball, and I'm learning to get the ball to them where they can score. The guards are all learning where everybody wants the ball."

Wright said it had been a sometimes-difficult transition from high school to college ball. He averages 4.1 rebounds and has blocked 21 shots.

"The difference is defense," Wright said. "Opposing defenders watch film and see where you like to get the ball and score. They try to take it away from you. After a while, you get used to it."

Self said it's encouraging to see the progress Wright had made.

"Julian cares a lot," the coach said. "All the freshmen are getting to the point where they care a lot. I think our competitive spirit is a lot better than a month ago. I think this is a pretty competitive team."

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