Chris Wright isn’t one of the best 25 players in the country, maybe not one of the top 50.
But you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more important to their team.
Maybe some guy named Jimmer or Kemba, or Arizona’s Derrick Williams. That’s about it.
Wright, Georgetown’s senior guard, sat at the far end of the bench Wednesday afternoon, decked out in a sharp, dark grey suit and tie with a wrap protecting his broken left wrist. He watched his Hoyas get manhandled by a UConn team that finished .500 in the Big East and struggled to put DePaul away 24 hours earlier.
The 79-62 loss was the fourth in a row for a Wright-less Georgetown squad.
Sure, Austin Freeman got all the preseason accolades and is Georgetown’s most prolific scorer, but the Hoyas wouldn’t have gone on a four-game losing streak if they’d lost Freeman.
The Hoyas just can’t win without Wright.
I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true.
When I asked Georgetown coach John Thompson III if he’d ever coached a player who meant as much to his team as Wright, he didn’t flinch.
“Jeff Green,” he said. “That’s it.”
Wright won’t be a lottery pick as Green was a few years back, but his value cannot be overstated. He scores, he makes his teammates better and he leads.
“They’re a completely different team with Chris Wright,” UConn’s Kemba Walker said.
“With Chris Wright, it’s anyone’s game,” added Walker’s teammate Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. “Without him, we’re supposed to win that game.”
Julian Vaughn hasn’t scored in two games without Wright in the lineup. The Hoyas have shot abysmally since he went down early in the second half of a loss to Cincinnati a couple weeks ago.
“He’s our floor general, our point guard,” Freeman said. “He makes everything work.”
Wright was averaging 13.6 points and 5.5 assists when he went down, but the numbers don’t tell the entire story of his impact, both on and off the court.
He’s the unquestionable leader. “Definitely,” acknowledged the soft-spoken Freeman.
“No one outside the locker room realized how much he means to our team until the last few games,” Thompson said.
That’s because Wright provides the scoring, passing, leadership and also the toughness for this team.
He scored just 10 points in a loss to Temple, had three in a setback to Notre Dame, seven in a defeat to St. John’s and nine while falling short against West Virginia.
The Hoyas are 21-6 with Wright in the lineup for the entire game.
“We need him,” Freeman said.
Thompson and the players are optimistic that Wright will be back next week for the NCAA tournament, but the atmosphere in the locker room following Wednesday’s loss sure didn’t support that notion. It was like walking into a morgue.
“I’m pretty sure,” Freeman said of whether he thought Wright would be back in the fold next week.
“I think so,” Vaughn added.
Wright actually participated in non-contact portions of practice on Tuesday and Thompson said Wright would have played against UConn if the doctors had cleared him.
“If you ask him, he’ll say he can do everything,” Thompson said.
If there’s a silver lining in all this, the injury occurred to Wright’s non-shooting wrist, which means when he does return, he shouldn’t be too far out of game shape.
However, if Wright doesn’t come back for the Big Dance, you might as well knock the Hoyas out of your bracket early — maybe even in the first round.
“That’s fair for people to say,” Vaughn said. “We’ve lost four in a row.”
It may sound corny, but these guys just aren’t Wright without him.