Inching closer to return, Pitt’s Wright could boost defense
LAHAINA, Hawaii — Senior guard Cameron Wright, a potential lynchpin to Pitt’s shaky defense, still is recovering from a broken left foot and won’t play in the EA Sports Maui Invitational beginning Monday when the Panthers face tournament host Chaminade at 9 p.m. at Lahaina Civic Center.
But Wright will continue to serve as a reminder of what coach Jamie Dixon expects from his players defensively.
That Wright has been sidelined during the first three games when Dixon voiced repeated complaints about his defense isn’t a coincidence.
The sooner Wright returns to the lineup, the better Dixon will feel.
“Your best defensive players are usually the most experienced guys,” Dixon said. “With that said, they all have to get better.
“You think you know what you’ve got. We’re not the kind of team we thought we were going to be. We’ve got to defend better. We’ve got to guard them on the perimeter and guard the (3-pointer).”
Wright started all 36 games last season and entered this year as the Panthers’ most experienced player. Dixon said Wright could be ready to return when Pitt visits Indiana on Dec. 2.
“He hasn’t done anything for eight weeks, and now he’s shooting,” Dixon said. “He’s heading in that direction.”
At 6-foot-5, Wright can defend guards and forwards. Plus he understands what Dixon wants: Being a good offensive player won’t cut it if you don’t play defense with enthusiasm.
Pitt is 2-1 following a close home win over Samford and a surprising 74-70 loss at Hawaii in its last two games.
Chaminade (2-0) has played in two consecutive NCAA Division II West Regional tournaments. The Silverswords, who upset Texas in the first round of the 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational, are best known for pulling off one of the greatest upsets of all-time: a 1982 stunner over Ralph Sampson and Virginia.
“I didn’t realize every day of my life that the 1982 win over Virginia would be brought up in some form or fashion,” said fourth-year Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird, a native of Brockway. “Any time you take the floor, there’s a possibility for an upset when you talk about Chaminade and the tradition we’ve had.”
The Pitt-Chaminade winner advances to face BYU-San Diego State winner Tuesday. The losing teams also play Tuesday. The championship and consolation games are Wednesday.
“Everybody finds out at this point of the year where they are,” Dixon said. “We’ve got an opportunity to find out against really good competition.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected]