The Georgetown Hoyas are living through every March Madness team’s worst nightmare: They’re heading into their most important games of the season without knowing if their best all-around player will be available.
Chris Wright wore a sharp suit and a protective wrap on his broken left hand today as he watched his teammates lose, 79–62, to Connecticut in the second round of the Big East Conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. He avoided reporters after the game.
With a healthy Wright providing senior leadership and scoring punch, Georgetown (21–10) would belong on the short list of teams that could win the 68-team NCAA tournament that begins Tuesday.
Without Wright, who has essentially missed four straight games, the Hoyas proved no match for Connecticut, and they’ll struggle to get out of the first round regardless of whom they play next week.
“Chris has been shooting in practice since two days after the surgery,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Once we know he’s ready to play again, we’ll feel better about our chances.”
Wright broke his hand diving for a loose ball in a Feb. 23 loss to Cincinnati. His team will limp into March Madness with four straight losses and five defeats in the last six games. Were it not for the Hoyas’ impressive body of work with Wright, forward Austin Freeman, guard Jason Clark and center Julian Vaughn all in the lineup, they would be in danger of not qualifying for March Madness at all.
But even if Wright plays, will Georgetown’s leader in assists and steals and its third-leading scorer be able to catch and shoot and dribble and defend with his usual prowess? “One thing I know is having him on the court will give us a boost,” Thompson III said. “I’ve got to get the rest of these players ready to play.”
Wright’s uncertain status will force Thompson III to utilize all the coaching knowledge he has acquired and inherited. Thompson’s father, John Thompson Jr., was the first African-American coach to win the NCAA championship, with Georgetown in 1984. The younger Thompson has done so much to revitalize the basketball program in his seven years as coach that Georgetown students sported T-shirts in New York that read, “RESPECT IS BACK! FEAR IS NEXT!”
However, without a healthy Wright, Georgetown’s potential NCAA tournament opponents should be not only unafraid, but even eager to play them.
Cecil Harris is the author of three books, including Charging the Net: A History of Blacks in Tennis from Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe to the Williams Sisters.
Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
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