Wildcat Basketball Press Pass: Wright says there’s still plenty of work to do, but opener was a good start

Kyle Scudilla

Clark gives break-out performance

The talk of the post-game discussion between the players, coaches and the media was the career-best of Shane Clark. Clark, usually a soft-spoken respondent to media inquiries, could not contain his excitement about his newfound health.

“I’m 110 percent,” he said after the game.

Coach Jay Wright was less surprised than the media members and fans were by Clark’s offensive outburst and assertiveness but made sure to express how happy he was with the performance.

“All of us in our program expect that of Shane,” Wright said. “It wasn’t surprising to us in the program. We need him to be that kind of player. It’s good for him, and it’s good for us that he did that the first night.”

Not taking Stony Brook lightly

Wright was asked about his team’s mindset playing Stony Brook, an America East team considered as a lightweight compared to the highly talented Big East teams that the Wildcats will face this year. The Seawolves’ tenacity, however, won praise from Villanova’s coach.

“They’re a tough team,” he said. “I like that team.”

With teams like Kentucky and USC already falling in high-profile regular season upsets (to Gardener Webb and Mercer, respectively), Villanova is taking extra steps to make sure it doesn’t fall prey to a feisty underdog.

“We prepare for every team the same way, like they’re UCLA,” Wright said. “Sometimes people get tired of me saying that, but it’s truth.”

Malcolm in the middle of the action

Freshman point guard Malcolm Grant also won high praise in his first game with the ‘Cats, hitting four field goals (all 3 pointers) and finishing with 16 points. Grant, billed as a pure point guard, largely played off the ball with sophomore Scottie Reynolds running the point. While much of the buzz surrounding Grant in his short time with the Wildcats has been about his smart play and passing ability. In his first regular-season game, the rookie showed a knack to score without the ball in his hands while still creating opportunities for his teammates.

“[Grant] can really score,” Wright said. “We know when he comes in that he can score. He’s like a microwave. He did that in Ottawa, and he was a great scorer in high school. It comes natural to him.”

Wright also expressed confidence in Grant’s ability to run the offense, saying that if Reynolds had picked up a second foul in the first half after a quick first foul, Grant would have taken the reins and run point.

Dante from downtown

In the Stony Brook win, Dante Cunningham could be found in his regular spot in the paint, doing the dirty work needed to get the Wildcats a win. The junior forward showed a new wrinkle to his game by stepping out near the arc and confidently stroking a 19-foot jumper.

“I worked on my shooting a lot over the summer,” Cunningham said. “I feel more comfortable out on the perimeter.”

Work to do on D

While Wright seemed happy with the offense, he made it a point to mention Stony Brook’s 51 percent shooting percentage (which included nine 3 pointers).

“We have work to do,” Wright said. “I probably would have said that no matter what happened tonight though because it’s true.”

Injury update

Though his knees are finally feeling good, Clark is still nursing a sore left thumb, which he had wrapped during the game and said was sore.

Though fans saw the debuts of Grant and Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher was inactive on Friday night as he recovered from severe tendonitis in his left knee. Wright mentioned that Fisher would return to practice shortly after the game and would be helped out by the 10-day layoff between games.