Freshmen point guards can make even the most patient basketball coaches pull their hair out at times with unforced turnovers and poor decisions. But steady Marquis Wright is a different breed.
Siena will need another consistent and steady performance from the 6-footer when the Saints try to snap their three-game losing streak tonight at 7 against Saint Peter’s at the Times Union Center.
Although Siena (3-5 MAAC, 7-12 overall) lost a pair of games to Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference perennial powerhouse Iona, sandwiched around a spanking by equally tough Manhattan on the road, Wright continued to excel. He was named the MAAC rookie of the week for the second time after averaging 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He came close to a triple-double in the second meeting at Iona.
“It feels good,” said Wright about earning the rookie of the week award again. “I’ve just got to keep it up and help my team as much as possible.”
Wright is used to dishing out plenty of assists. He has posted five or more helpers in every MAAC contest, averaging 7.4 apg against conference foes. Overall, he has more assists than turnovers in all but three games.
But his rebounding, especially during the last week, has been a surprise.
“He [head coach Jimmy Patsos] tells us that the guards have to help the big guys rebound, so that’s what I tried to do last game,” he said.
Wright’s confident and unshakable demeanor is a boost for the young Saints. He takes pride in staying poised.
“It takes time,” he said. “My ninth-grade year, I really didn’t have a good team, and I was getting frustrated a lot. My father [Walter Wright] always told me to just keep calm, and things will calm. We could’ve been good, but there were people on the team who didn’t get along.”
Being a vocal leader didn’t come naturally to Wright as a youngster, but he learned quickly.
“My ninth-grade year, I didn’t [speak out much], but I started becoming more of a leader my 10th-grade year,” he said. “I used to watch my father play in the church league growing up, so that’s kind of where I get it from. Knowing that the team likes me, and will actually listen to me, then it’s no problem doing that.”
Although Wright is a pass-first point guard who prefers to let his teammates do the scoring, he is still capable of chipping in when the Saints need some extra punch, especially in the clutch. He nailed a game-winning layup against St. Bonaventure with 0.2 seconds left.
Wright said he enjoys the fact that the MAAC has so many quality point guards, especially veteran ones, who will test him every night.
“Patsos says that a lot, that senior point guards are coming for me. I just have to take it in and play my game. I love challenges,” he said.
Rounding out the probable starting lineup for the Saints will be sophomore guard Ryan Oliver (3.1 ppg); junior guard Rob Poole (15.0 ppg, .6.0 rpg), who is nursing a bruised hip; 6-8 sophomore forward Brett Bisping (8.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg); and 6-8 junior center Imoh Silas (4.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Junior guard Evan Hymes has been the first guard off the bench, and is second on the team in scoring at 10.9 ppg. Freshman forward Lavon Long (9.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg), who has been a starter for the most of the season, averages 4.11 fouls per game, and his 78 total fouls and eight disqualifications are the most in the nation.
Siena has won five of its seven home games, bowing only to UAlbany in the season opener and to Iona in its last home contest. But Saint Peter’s has won five of the last six meetings over the last three years.