MISSOULA — For the second straight week, the Montana Grizzlies have claimed Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors, with Walter Wright getting the nod from the league office on Monday.
Wright was named co-Big Sky Player of the Week after scoring a total of 38 points and dishing out 21 assists over the course of two Montana wins against Portland State and Sacramento State.
Against the Vikings, Wright led all players in scoring with 22 points, and handed out nine assists, just two fewer than the entire Portland State team on Thursday.
He followed that performance with another outstanding show against the Hornets, tallying seven assists in the first half alone, and finishing with 12, just two shy of tying the single game school record. Wright was that game’s second leading scorer with 16 points.
“I’m happy, but I’m happier about the two wins we just picked up,” said Wright on learning of his award. “My guys are making shots, and our coaches are doing a great job of working with me, letting me know what’s a good spot for me. My teammates are just trusting me, and I feel like I’m trusting them a lot more, so that’s helpful.”
While Wright, the junior from Waterbury, Conn., is appreciative of the accolade, for him, it’s just another step toward reaching the team’s goals.
“Right now we’re just trying to stay hungry, stay competitive, and just compete every day in practice. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time. We’re not really looking past anybody. We’re just trying to treat every game like a championship, and prepare for every game like it’s a championship.
Often in college basketball, a transfer from a junior college can have difficulty melding with his teammates, learning a new system of play, and dealing with the pressure of Division I basketball. Not Wright though.
Montana head coach Travis DeCuire applauded the Snow College transfer for his ability to work himself, and the Griz, into the top spot in the league using his mental capacity for the game, and game management skills.
“His decision making, his approach to our style of basketball,” said DeCuire, listing Wright’s attributes. “He’s learning quickly how to run a team, how to be responsible for a team, and continue to be aggressive offensively while doing it. It’s very difficult to do. We’re asking him to be a pure point guard, and he’s responding.”
The league’s award is the second for the Grizzlies in as many weeks, with Brandon Gfeller being named Player of the Week following Montana’s road sweep of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah to open conference play.
With five straight victories, an undefeated home record, and a pair of Big Sky Player of the Week honors, the Grizzlies are capturing some of that Montana magic on the court. What makes this team special though, is that it’s not one person doing all the work. Coach DeCuire’s philosophy of playing team basketball and building team chemistry, is paying dividends.
“I define success as when the individuals take their individual goals and put them to the side to achieve a common goal for the team,” added DeCuire. “That’s what Brandon and Walter have done over the last two weeks. They’re not the only guys, but their numbers are a result of that. Everyone is less concerned about the individual numbers and more concerned with winning, and we’re playing like a team that’s trying to win a championship right now. The question is: can we sustain it?”
Wright, Gfeller, Coach DeCuire and the rest of the Grizzlies will have the chance to keep it rolling on the road this week, when UM travels to face Northern Colorado on Thursday, followed by a trip to Grand Forks to face North Dakota on Saturday.
Tipoff from Greeley is scheduled for 7 p.m., while the Griz will play earlier on Saturday in a 1 p.m. tipoff at UND.
Joel Bolomboy of Weber State was named the other co-Player of the Week, after posting two double-doubles to stay atop the national rankings with 15 this season. He also moved into third place in the Big Sky all-time career rebounds rankings with 1,117, eclipsing former Montana great Larry Krystkowiak.
— Montana Sports Information