Quick-learning newcomers give Ragin’ Cajuns a boost _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRAD BOWIE -- The Cajuns' Jay Wright takes a jump shot against Milligan's' Mickey Woods on Dec. 17, 2014, at the Cajundome.

LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette basketball team is chock full of players who can get up and down the court and score, but point guard Jay Wright has a special role in that mix.

“He’s the straw that stirs the drink,” said coach Bob Marlin. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can make us go, but he’s the straw.”

Wright is back for his second season as the Cajuns starting point guard after averaging 9.1 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds during a solid debut campaign.

But Marlin and the Cajuns are looking for more out of Wright this year. And they think he might be ready to oblige, in all facets of the game.

“That’s probably one of the first things I noticed coming back from my summer, the improvement Jay made,” said senior forward Shawn Long.

“It was obvious that he had been working over the summer on a lot of things as a point guard.

“It’s not even just on the court things, it’s building chemistry like a point guard should with his players.”

It wasn’t always easy last season. Wright was tasked with operating an offense that was stacked with players he’d never met before the season, most of whom had been in that offensive system for at least a few years.

Wright made a concerted effort this summer to work on his rapport-building skills. He traveled with Athletes In Action to play in China, and there he found himself in a familiar situation learning how to play with new teammates.

“It helped me with my leadership, trying to be on the same page with people you’ve never met before,” Wright said. “It makes this team easier, being here the second year. It’s my first time being at one school for two years in a row for a long time.”

While that can only help him on the court, he also identified and trained a few parts of his game that needed improvement from last year.

He shot just a hair better than 60 percent from the free throw line, and at times his aggressiveness got the better of him when it came to shot selection and turnovers.

Wright said his free throw shooting is “really going to improve this year,” though he still struggled at the line during his time in China. He’s also hopeful his experience last year and this summer helped him in the other areas of his game.

“Being a smarter player, running the team more,” Wright said. “If things are going bad, control what’s going on and turn it around to being a positive.”

The Cajuns will get their first official look at Jay Wright 2.0 at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cajundome against Louisiana College. They’re hopeful it’s the first step of many in the right direction for their young point guard.