Patriots junior finds success by altering diet, training regimen

George Mason basketball coach Paul Hewitt smiles when he is reminded of his second chance with Sherrod Wright.

His first came as the coach at Georgia Tech, where he recruited Wright out of Mount Vernon High in Westchester County, N.Y. But when Hewitt received a commitment from Wright's AAU teammate, Brian Oliver, also a wing guard, Wright opted for George Mason.

After the sudden departure of Jim Larranaga for Miami, Hewitt became the coach at George Mason.

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Old Dominion at George Mason
When » Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where » Patriot Center

"When I saw him last year, I said, 'Wow, really? God works in mysterious ways, huh?'?" Wright recalls. "Now he's my coach."

In his second season under the direction of Hewitt, Wright has blossomed. As his scoring average has nearly doubled from 9.6 points per game last year to 18.2, the 6-foot-4 junior has grown into a CAA player of the year candidate.

It isn't so much what Wright has done this year but rather over the last month. After reaching the 20-point mark in just three of the first 71 games of his career, Wright has averaged 22.3 points in his last six games and has done so efficiently, hitting 57.8 percent of his field goal tries and 12 of 23 (52.2 percent) 3-point attempts.

While the emergence seems sudden, Hewitt says it has been the culmination of a long process.

"He's always had this kind of talent and ability, but it takes time," Hewitt says. "It's an aspect people overlook in college basketball. He's older. He's more mature. He's much more professional in his approach."

Wright points to improved diet and exercise. He also comes to practice early to get additional shots and stays late for physical treatments. Wright says his improved conditioning is making a difference at the end of games.

The evidence came last month with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in a 67-64 victory over Richmond. In a 73-66 victory at William & Mary on Saturday, Wright scored 10 of his career-high 28 points in the final 7:43.

Sophomore point guard Corey Edwards, who passed to Wright for the game-winner against Richmond, says the Patriots now look to Wright for leadership.

"He's always had great talent," Edwards says. "The focus on being the best player on the court is there now."

Hewitt says that focus extends to areas other than scoring. Wright is second on the team in rebounding (5.1 pg) and first in steals (1.3 pg).

"The biggest jump I've seen in his preparation and results is on the defensive end," Hewitt says. "He's gone from a guy who typically gets one, two deflections a game, which is not very good for an athlete like him, to now he's averaging eight to nine deflections a game, and he's doing it mostly on anticipation, preparation, just figuring out where they're going with the ball, like a defensive back reading a quarterback."