Contact Us




The Arizona Daily Wildcat Online





News Sports Opinions Arts Classifieds

Wednesday November 22, 2000

Football site
Football site
UA Survivor
Pearl Jam


Police Beat


Alum site

AZ Student Media

KAMP Radio & TV


Wright cleaning glass early in Maui

Headline Photo

By Chris Martin

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Junior quietly leading Arizona to victory

LAHAINA, Hawaii - UA junior forward Michael Wright has always excelled in basketball.

This year, Wright isn't playing just excellent basketball - he's dominating the opponent in every aspect of his game.

Known as the quiet member of the No. 1-ranked Arizona men's basketball team (2-0), Wright has usually blended into games throughout the past two seasons, allowing teammates like senior center Loren Woods and junior forward Richard Jefferson to take the spotlight - and fame - that comes along with having inflated statistics.

Still, Wright usually came away with a workman-like 15 points and eight rebounds while pacing an Arizona victory.

It wasn't until late last season that the meek Wright began to find himself in magazines and on television. While Woods and Jefferson missed significant time last season with back and foot injuries, Wright put a team starting three freshmen on his shoulders and led it to a Pacific-10 Conference Championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"His teammates at the conclusion of the (last) year voted him the M.V.P.of our team," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "That speaks volumes of what his teammates think about him and what the staff does."

Wright's performances so far this season have indicated that the junior is in for a break-out year.

In Arizona's first game of the season at the Maui Invitational Monday night, Wright made his presence felt immediately by grabbing six rebounds in the first eight minutes of a 97-57 victory against Chaminade.

The Chicago native ended up with a Maui Invitational-record 19 rebounds to go along with 15 points as UA easily cruised to victory.

Wright's 19 rebounds were also a career high, breaking his old record of 17 set in the 1998 season against New Mexico.

"His game was certainly outstanding and I can't think of a more deserving guy to end up with this rebound record," Olson said. "This year, I think Michael is quicker, he's more explosive and the other thing is I think he is doing a better job of anticipating shots to where he can get to inside positions."

Wright's tenacity didn't slow down last night, as the junior managed 13 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the Wildcats 76-59 win against Dayton (1-1).

"You never hear him say anything but he plays," Olson said. "When you start looking at 32 boards in this tournament in two"

While rebounding has always been a staple of Wright's game, the reckless abandon the junior has shown this year has dramatically helped his statistics.

While playing his first two years in a UA uniform, Wright relied mainly on strength and positioning to grab rebounds.

While Wright entered this season as the top returning rebounder in the Pac-10, he realized the he had to get better underneath the glass area because his 6-foot-7 frame puts the junior at a disadvantage against some of the taller power forwards in the country.

Hoping to improve his rebounding ability, Wright went to the Big Apple.

Playing at Rucker Park in Harlem during the summer, Wright worked on the facets of his game that would enable him to become a better rebounder.

"All the time in New York, I was working jumping ability and I was just running sprints," Wright said. "Just doing that everyday and just polishing up my game. I just came into the season with more explosiveness and more agility then I had last year."

The most apparent aspect of Wright's newfound game was his jumping ability.

Wright was clearly playing above the rim in his games against Chaminade and Dayton.

Olson said Wright's summer in New York also managed to help the junior's passing ability.

"You saw what has happened (against Chaminade) in terms of his rebounding, but he has always been a good rebounder," Olson said. "The thing that I think has made Michael even more special now is his ability to find the open man. So if somebody is coming with (a double team), he locates people quickly."

So Michael Wright - with his improved talents - still manages to quietly put up his 15 points and eight rebounds per game.

Wright is content not being the team's marquee player, for now.

"I don't have anything to prove," Wright said. "What I have to prove is to win every game and help my team out. Whatever it is - rebounding, scoring, taking charges, even getting blocked shots. Whatever it takes."