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Pitt guard Wright's versatility proves valuable to team

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 10:45 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Cameron Wright plays against Fresno State on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Cameron Wright plays against Fresno State on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

Cameron Wright loves playing point guard, his position for four years at Cleveland's Benedictine High.

When Pitt coach Jamie Dixon gave James Robinson a breather against Howard Sunday without putting in backup Josh Newkirk, Wright got to run the offense.

“He gets rebounds and he can take it up, so he's playing point guard in a lot of ways, and our guys are interchangeable in most of our sets,” Dixon said.

“He'll be guarding the point, so that's pretty much a lot of point guard play right there when you talk about it in many facets.”

Never mind that Wright, a redshirt junior, still is settling in as the Panthers' starter at shooting guard.

“As much as I love playing point guard,” Wright said, “I also love shooting guard.”

After spending his first three years behind Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs and Tray Woodall, Wright has not only seized a starting role but is bringing Pitt much-needed versatility.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is averaging 10.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 25.3 minutes through the first three games and leads Pitt (3-0) in steals with seven entering its game against Lehigh (1-3) in the Progressive Legends Classic at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Petersen Events Center.

“He's played as well as anybody on our team,” Dixon said. “He gives us shot-making ability, he gets layups and he's been rebounding at a pretty good rate, too.”

Wright's ability to play the point in a pinch gives Pitt depth at the position it hasn't had in years. It also allows the Panthers to go with a bigger lineup by playing 6-5 Lamar Patterson at shooting guard and 6-6 Durand Johnson at small forward.

Not only does Wright add a new dimension to Pitt's lineup, but he is playing with more confidence and takes pride in bringing energy. And it has nothing to do with which position he is playing.

“Basketball is my comfort zone,” Wright said. “It's not a matter of being comfortable. Once I step on the floor, I'm automatically comfortable. I think I'm more mature now.

“I know what I can do. I feel like I'm getting better on a daily basis. I've shown a little bit, but I haven't displayed everything I'm capable of doing.”

Wright's sophomore season was an emotional roller coaster. His father, Kevin, died at age 48 of brain cancer on the day of Pitt's season opener. Cameron played anyway, scoring eight points against Mount St. Mary's.

Wright marked the one-year anniversary of his father's funeral Sunday by scoring nine points against Howard. Afterward, he rubbed the tattoo dedicated to his father on his left biceps that reads, Rest in Paradise.

“I still deal with that,” Wright said. “It's something I definitely cope with every day. I feel he's with me every day, every step of the way.

“I play for him, of course. Now, I play for my sister, mother and grandmothers. It's not just me out there.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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