By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 12:54 AM
Late Monday morning, Georgetown's Chris Wright received a call from his mother, who was anxious to share some news. For the first time in his career, her son had been named the Big East's player of the week.
"I was like, 'Good,' " Wright recalled saying. "She was all excited, but I wasn't. It was good, but that was last week."
His nonchalant response to an individual honor is consistent with the approach Wright has taken into his senior season: That his success as the Hoyas' point guard will be measured less by individual accomplishments and more by what the team achieves.
So far, Georgetown's achievements have been quite significant, in large because of Wright's wizardry. With a record of 8-0, the Hoyas leapt to No. 9 in the latest Associated Press poll, and Thursday night, they can mark the school's best start in eight seasons with a win over Atlantic 10 favorite Temple (5-2) in Philadelphia.
"Chris is playing at a very high level, and it goes above and beyond what shows up, or what does not show up, on the stat sheet," Coach John Thompson III said. "Just his understanding of how to make his teammates look better, how to get us the kind of shots we want. [His play] is at the highest it's been since he's been here."
Although Wright has scored more points than any Hoyas player twice and also hit the biggest shot of Georgetown's season - a three-pointer as time expired to force overtime against Missouri - it's been his steady leadership and deft ball distribution that's been the key to Georgetown's impressive run. He also leads the team in steals (2.1 per game) and minutes played (32.4).
"It's my time to be a vocal leader and lead this team as the point guard," he said before cracking, "I've been talking since I was a freshman. People might just be listening a little more now."
The Hoyas feed off Wright's fiery emotion, follow his every instruction and, these days, depend on his ability create scoring opportunities for others. Through eight games, Wright is tied for first among Big East guards at 6.8 assists per game, which is more than twice what he averaged during the same span a season ago. If Wright maintains his current pace - he's 12th in school history with 343 career assists - he would move to sixth all-time, just behind Dwayne Bryant.
"A lot of it has to do with Greg leaving," Wright said, referring to Greg Monroe, who bolted for the NBA after his sophomore season. "As well as myself, he was a major facilitator for our team in many ways. It's more on my shoulders to be that facilitator. Last year, I was on the receiving end of a lot of his passes. This year, it's my job to make sure everyone is getting involved. Make sure Jason [Clark] is getting his shots. Make sure Austin [Freeman] is getting his. Make sure Julian [Vaughn] is getting his touches."
Wright's potential to fill such a role revealed itself late last season, but it was obvious upon his return from Chris Paul's invitation-only CP3 Elite Guard Camp in Winston-Salem, N.C., in June. Among the players in attendance were Villanova's Corey Fisher, Connecticut's Kemba Walker, and Syracuse's Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine. The intensive three-day camp is run and funded by Paul, an all-star point guard for the New Orleans Hornets who also happens to be Wright's idol.
"Chris Paul has had a major impact on me, just the way he carries himself every day, and just the way he handles himself on the court," Wright said. "The way he goes about his profession, the way he goes about his life on and off the court is something that any player dreaming to get to that level is attracted to."
One of the most important lessons he learned at the camp, Wright said, is deciphering between when to shoot and when to pass. As a result, Wright has made fewer audacious forays into the lane against multiple defenders, and instead has displayed patience and composure seeking a better option.
Paul "is one of the best and finding the balance between knowing when to create for himself and, more importantly, when to create his teammates," said Wright, who wears a blue "CP3" bracelet as a reminder of what he learned.
Wright and the Hoyas left for Philadelphia anticipating a low-scoring game against the Owls. After all, eight of the 10 players who started last November's meeting - a 46-45 Hoyas victory in which the teams combined for 29 points at the half - will be on the court for the opening tip Thursday. In seven games, Temple, which is coming off a 64-61 win over Maryland, has held opponents to an average of 54 points.
"You're not going to get any easy shots against them," Thompson said. "They're always going to be in front of you. Every shot is going to be contested. Every possession is important because it's hard to score."
Which means Wright's impact as the Hoyas' floor general will be as crucial as ever.
"Chris is a student of the game," Thompson said. "He loves basketball, understands situations and does a very good job of taking his knowledge and understanding and making sure that our team functions at that level. He's talented enough where he can score 30, and I said this [last month], before this season is over, he's going to set the [school's] single-game assist record. I like that."