Profile: Rocky Wright

Cailin Brophy

If one were to sum up the performance of ‘Nova senior Ricky Wright last year, there would perhaps be no better phrase than “breakout.”

The 6-foot-7-inch power forward took his game to the next level, honed his skills and emerged as one of the premier low-post powers in the Big East conference last season en route to being named a All Big East Second Team selection. Along with his fellow experienced classmates and a plethora of freshman talent, Wright hopes to see that same spirit which took his game to the next level extend to the entire team.

As has become quite clear since during even the earliest signing periods, Wright is not the only one anticipating the emergence of this team. The media hoopla surrounding these Wildcats is as high as it’s been in recent memory, and while this has carried with it a level of excitement and anticipation, this senior understands the other factors that come along for a team being violently thrust into the national spotlight.

“We still have to play basketball games to gain respect,” Wright is quick to remind reporters.

As for predicting how his squad will fare in the always-competitive Big East, Wright isn’t even going to go there.

“It’s too early yet to tell.

My biggest concern is having so many newcomers and trying to get everyone on the same page we finished on last year.”

That responsibility figures to be one of Wright’s biggest challenges to date. However, it is evident even early in the preseason that he is ready and able to provide the necessary leadership and guidance to complement his already proven talent on the court.

Wright enters his fourth and final season on the Main Line as the primary low-post threat for the ‘Cats, a role which he excelled in and shared with departed center Brooks Sales last season.

With the loss of Sales to graduation, Wright will not only be expected to absorb his former teammate’s duties in the paint, but more importantly, will be called upon to be the leader of a raw and talented group of young men.

His coaches have just as much confidence in this aspect of his game as they do in his interior moves.

“We’re very happy, especially with Ricky Wright,” assistant coach Joe Jones said. “He has really stepped up and become a vocal leader and someone that is going to do all the little things in practice that will help us win.”

In addition to his new role as vocal leader, Wright will undoubtedly continue and improve upon his junior season, during which he averaged 13.8 points to go along with 8.2 rebounds per outing. Despite earning serious recognition in the Big East in his junior year, Wright has continued to work tirelessly throughout the postseason with a devotion that he knows will not go unnoticed.

“I just want to continue to get better and help the freshmen out. I’ve only got a year to try and teach them the things that [Sales], Malik [Allen] and [Michael] Bradley taught me. I’m just trying to lead the team on and off the court with any troubles we may have.”

The mentality and mindset of the East Chicago, Ind. native is the impetus for what head coach Jay Wright hopes to become the mantra of the entire team. When asked what the Villanova faithful should expect from the team this season, Wright answered with a response indicative of his understanding of what his coach expects.

“You’re going to see lots of defense and hard work,” the senior said. “That is what we pride ourselves on and last year we set the foundation for that, so that’s going to continue to lead us and set the tone this year.”

Villanova fans have higher hopes than ever that this formula will translate into a berth in a different postseason tournament than the ‘Cats have participated in the past two seasons. Dealing with the pressure to make it to the Big Dance is yet another obstacle Wright must guide his team through.

“The anxiety and the anticipation is the biggest thing,” he pointed out. “My first two years, people were really anxious for season, but after a couple of games, it kind of got old. Last year, the anxiety continued to build and there were even larger crowds for every game.”

As far as thinking ahead to those later games and opponents, however, Wright understands the pitfalls that can come with counting any chickens before they hatch.

“For me personally, every game is important because its my last year. I take every game just as important as the one before it. I’m just trying to focus and take every opponent really heavy because I’m not one to underestimate anybody.”

With an already-proven and experienced Wright roving the paint area complete with his menacing scowl and fiercely swinging elbows, it’s defender beware when challenging this Wildcat. With the mentality he brings to the team, opponents can count on more of the same from his teammates.

“We just try to play harder, more together and with more pride than any other team we face,” he said.

Add to that the leadership qualities Wright brings to equip his team with the mental toughness to compete in big-time college basketball, and the ‘Nova Nation will have ample reason to cheer this season.