Before hurting his right knee against DePaul on January 15th, Cashmere Wright was playing as well as any guard in the Big East.
The senior from Savannah, Georgia had scored 20-or-more points in three of his previous four games and for the season was averaging 15.1 points on 47% shooting – including 44% from 3-point range.
Since returning from the injury, Wright has been mired in the worst shooting slump of his career, going 23-for-95 overall (24%) and 12-for-60 (20%) from 3-point range, while averaging 8.0 points in nine games.
In Sunday’s loss at Notre Dame, Wright did not attempt a shot in the first half and finished the game 0-for-2 in 23 minutes.
“He’s lost his confidence,” said Mick Cronin on his weekly radio show on Monday. “If you go five, six, seven games and shoot 20%, you would lose your confidence too.
“It’s a mental thing and I have to do a good job of making sure that his mind is in the right place. Internal pressure that players put on themselves and external pressure that players feel from family, friends, and fans – some let it affect them more than others. He’s a sensitive kid and there’s no doubt that he lost his confidence.”
So how does Cronin plan to help Wright get it back? By reminding Cashmere that he doesn’t have to make every shot to help the Bearcats win.
“I have to do a better job of making sure that his mind is on defense and leadership,” said Cronin. “He’s got to lose himself in the game and give us everything that he can with his steals. He’s not the all-time leading scorer at Cincinnati. Or the all-time assists leader. But he is the all-time steals leader and he can give us that. That’s what he has to focus us because if he doesn’t give us that we’re in trouble.
“My goal is to get him to realize that he did have a great game (after the injury). He was 3-for-14 from the field in that game, but he had a great game. It was the Villanova game. He had 14 deflections and his energy and defense inspired his team to get 46 deflections and beat a NCAA Tournament team by 18 points.”
Over the next month, Wright is almost certain to set Cincinnati’s all-time record for games played. After watching his senior point guard play through knee and shoulder pain for much of his career, Cronin wants to see Cashmere relax and finish strong.
“He’s a conscientious kid who wants to play well,” said Cronin. “He’s unlike me, because I am oblivious to other people’s opinion. If I have one gift, it’s that I have tunnel vision on doing my job. Whether your opinion of me is great or whether your opinion of me is poor, it doesn’t really affect me. Unfortunately, kids can be affected a lot more than you think this day and age. He is a very conscientious kid who is putting a lot of pressure on himself.
“He’s trying as hard as he can to help his team and I just have to make sure that he does two things: Worry about defense and stay aggressive. You can’t worry about making mistakes. I have to get him in an aggressive mindset on both ends of the floor, and whatever mistakes he may make we have to live with. But he has to be on the attack and he has to be aggressive or we’re not going to be a very good team.
“I’d like to get us to where we’re playing well, and helping Cash get his confidence back is probably the number one thing that I have get done as a coach.”
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