It's no surprise that Dinos basketball forward Chris Wright was named Canada West Male Athlete of the Week after scoring 50 points against the University of Regina Cougars last weekend. According to Sports Information Director Jack Neumann, it's rare for coaches to nominate their players for this recognition, but Wright's outstanding performance against the ninth-ranked team in the CIS fit the criteria. In fact, Wright has been attracting attention for outstanding talent on the court since the genesis of his athletic career in junior high school.
"I was always tall," said Wright, the youngest of his family's three athletes. His sister captained the U of C swim team for three years, and his brother plays volleyball at Mount Royal College. Wright also played volleyball in high school, but knew by grade 11 that he would take basketball further than an after-school pastime.
By grade ten, Wright already had a physical edge at six-feet-three- inches, but it wasn't until the following year that he decided to take his game seriously. At William Aberhart High School he honed his skills under the guidance of coach Mike Thomas, one of his biggest influences. It was also during this time that Wright first met fellow Dino John Riad, and helped lead the Trojans to victory in the Calgary City Championship.
Following high school, Wright played at the Canada Summer Games before starting his first season at U of C last year. The youngest player at last year's training camp, he used his height of six-feet-seven-inches and the valuable experience gained in high school to become an important player on the Dinos. By the end of the 2001/2002 season he was named to the Conference All-Rookie Team.
"I had a lot of fun," said Wright. "It took some time to gain experience and feel comfortable on the floor, but it was a pretty good year."
Wright mentioned the close relationship between players on the team as one of the greatest aspects of playing for the Dinos, describing it as a family-style support system. He appreciates the encouragement Head Coach Dan Vanhooren to spend time with the other team members, noting also the invaluable leadership of veteran Chris Harris. He mentions fan apathy as a negative aspect of Dinos sports, but praised the volunteer staff's efforts to generate excitement through various contests and prize give-aways.
This season, Wright is a regular top scorer and a major part of the Dinos' success. He averages 13.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds, and he still has three promising years of college eligibility remaining.
A Geography major, he hopes to complete his degree in his fifth year and turn pro in Europe. However, Wright hasn't lost sight of the goal at hand: the Dinos endeavor to finish the season with a 6-2 record over their last eight games.
"We have to match U of L to get into the playoffs. This weekend we play Trinity Western. They're second best in the Pacific Division, and they have a lot of good players."
The Dinos are halfway to achieving their objective with a 3-1 record over the last four games with four games remaining. Although they will have to play well to stay on track, the presence of players like Wright will certainly ease the pressure.
Last weekend the U of C played two excellent games against the University of Regina, winning both by comfortable margins. Vanhooren was especially pleased with the results of Friday's game.
"We shot the ball very well on Friday," he said. "I don't know if it would have mattered who we played on the weekend."
U of R was missing top-scorer Brenan Shwartz, who averages 18 points per game, but the effects of his absence are difficult to gauge in retrospect. The Dinos played an amazing game on Friday night, winning 97-65, and played well during Saturday's game to win 86-72 after trailing by ten points in the first half.
Whit Hornsberger added 26 points to Friday's score, and John Riad matched Wright's 25 on Saturday.
The Dinos host Trinity Western University at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.