By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
Friday afternoon practices are always important for the Bonnies men’s basketball team, and this one was certainly no exception. With Saturday night’s game against George Washington looming, many players were shooting around on Bob Lanier Court 40 minutes before practice was scheduled to begin. Among those players was six-foot-seven sophomore Dion Wright.
When watching Bonaventure play this year, it’s easy to tell that Wright has improved tremendously from freshman year to his sophomore season. He’s gone from playing five minutes a game to 22, 2.8 points per game to 9.3, and 1.9 rebounds per game to 4.8. He’s getting more playing time and making the most of it — surprising many with his production.
His play has definitely not gone unnoticed, and he received some high praise from Ian Nolan at CollegeChalkTalk.com, who mentioned him as one of his “7 Atlantic 10 Names To Know.” Nolan wrote that Wright has quietly become one of the most improved players in the league.
Nolan wrote, “A 6-7 wing in a similar mold as former Bonnie Demetrius Conger, Wright has shown a knack for finding the ball on the offensive end. His 8.9 points a game in just 22 minutes per contest proves his ability to make an instant impact. Adept at scoring inside via creative post moves with both hands and a terrific rebounder.”
“I think it was awesome for someone to acknowledge me for my hard work on the court, but I still have to work hard and get better,” Wright said about being mentioned in the article. “My rebounding still has room for improvement.”
Wright realizes he has come a long way to become one of the first players off the bench for the Bonnies.
“I’ve worked hard at making the most of my opportunities,” said Wright. “If I have the open shot I know I have to finish around the basket, and I’ve done that.”
Finishing around the basket has been one of Wright’s biggest strengths, and it can be tough to score in the post with 7-footers hanging around the paint. How does he do it?
“I just have a nice feel for the basket,” Wright said. “When I get my opportunities, I just try to score whatever way I can.”
Much of Wright’s game was crafted in the gym at Mayfair High School in Lakewood, CA., where he averaged close to 20 points per game. Former NBA player Josh Childress also went to Mayfair — graduating in 2001.
“At Mayfair we always played good teams and had hard practices. Conditioning was hard, which really helped me to get where I am today.”
Like every Bonaventure player, head coach Mark Schmidt has been a big motivation for Wright.
“He’s always giving us quotes and I just listen to whatever he says and try to go out there and produce,” said Wright. “Whether I get five minutes, ten minutes or twenty minutes, I’m just going to go out there and give it my all.”
The losses on the road against UMass and Saint Louis provided plenty of lessons for the sophomore.
“We were right there at the end, we just need to learn how to finish and cut down on turnovers. We also have to rebound more to close games,” Wright said.
Beating George Washington will be tough, but Wright knows the Bonnies have a good chance to win.
“They’re a very good team, so the keys are to match their intensity level and guard their flex action,” said Wright.
There’s a lot to be impressed about with Wright. He doesn’t like to talk too much about himself, opting to let his play do the talking instead. Down in the post, where games are often won or lost, you can find Wright making a key offensive rebound or maneuvering his way to the hoop.
When Bonaventure lost Demetrius Conger, it looked like it would take a while for the Bonnies to find a player with his nose for the basket. In actuality, it may not have taken very long at all. The Bonnies need a continued consistent Wright if they have plans to go far in the Atlantic 10.