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Against Syracuse, Georgetown's Chris Wright will lead from the sideline

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2011; D01

For the past two-plus seasons, little has been more certain for Georgetown than Chris Wright running the point.

But the senior's streak of 93 consecutive starts will end Saturday afternoon when the Hoyas host Syracuse at Verizon Center. For the first time since his freshman season, he'll be bound to the bench, his left hand wrapped tightly after suffering a fracture that's expected to sideline him until mid-March.

Pregame introductions figure to be difficult for Wright, particularly being that it's senior day. What his teammates will face over the following 40 minutes won't be easy, either, as the 11th-ranked Hoyas adjust to life without their most indispensable player only two games before the start of the postseason.

"The difficult thing about this injury is the timing of it," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "It's not earlier in the season when you have time to figure things out. Right now, we're in the belly of the beast so to speak."

The void Wright leaves is so vast, in fact, Thompson said the Hoyas will replace him via committee.

"We're aren't looking at this as, 'Okay, we're going to need Person X to replace Chris Wright,' " Thompson said. "Everyone, top to bottom, head to toe, has to do what they've been doing a little bit better for a little bit longer."

Thompson also said he had not decided who will replace Wright in the starting lineup against the 17th-ranked Orange, whose 10-6 record in the Big East is identical to the Hoyas'. Asked who he'll tap to bring the ball down the floor and initiate the offense, Thompson said the responsibility will fall to four guards - veterans Austin Freeman and Jason Clark and inexperienced underclassmen Vee Sanford and Markel Starks, who is expected to replace Wright next season.

"Many different people will do it," Thompson said of carrying out the point guard duties. "Most of our offense is based on reads anyway, so we come down in a specific set and then it's everyone's duty to call the play."

Considering all he had endured since suffering the injury on Wednesday night, Wright was in good spirits when he met with reporters Friday afternoon at McDonough Arena. He described breaking the third metacarpal bone in a collision with Cincinnati's Cashmere Wright "a freak injury" and added that he's already started a rehabilitation program.

"Whenever I can come back is the goal, regardless of [whether] that's in the NCAA tournament, Big East tournament, whatever," he said. "But I'm not rushing anything because obviously I have a future playing [professionally] after this year. I'm just going to take it how I can. There's no point in being sad, or dwelling on anything."

In the meantime, Wright said he plans to continue to be a vocal leader by tutoring the youngsters in practice and on the sideline during games. He got a head start on his new role late against the Bearcats when Thompson sent Starks to the end of the bench to talk to Wright, who talked the freshman through some of the game's nuances.

"The year Patrick Ewing Jr. sat out [as a transfer from Indiana in 2005-06], he helped us win games," Thompson said. "He was ineligible to play, [but] just with his talking on the bench, his coaching, assisting, helping his teammates, his insights in practice."

Wright added: "Actually, now I have even a bigger role - just making sure no one gets down in spirit. It can happen. It's important for myself to continue to be vocal and continue to help out my teammates. I'm still going to be in the mix. It's going to look like I'm on the court."

Except, in reality, he'll be confined to the sideline, where he'll take in what figures to be a special atmosphere Saturday.

Wright and fellow seniors Freeman, Julian Vaughn and Ryan Dougherty will be honored in a pregame ceremony before a capacity crowd, which, thanks to the efforts of the Georgetown athletics ticket office, is expected to feature much more blue and gray than orange.

But a raucous atmosphere alone probably won't be enough for the Hoyas. In addition to moving on without Wright, they'll need to shake off one of their ugliest losses of the season and put together a 40-minute effort against an Orange team that's won three of four games since losing to Georgetown on Feb. 9 at the Carrier Dome.

"We have a competitive group that understands that [the loss to Cincinnati] was a very bad game for us," Thompson said. "I don't think that I need to give a Knute Rockne speech. That's not to say I won't. But they understand the importance of these last two games. Emotions will be high. It is senior [day]. It is Syracuse. Those two factors alone get everyone's adrenaline flowing."

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