Common Ground for Felton and Harrick

It took almost six months but finally some common ground between old Georgia coach Jim Harrick and new Georgia coach Dennis Felton has surfaced.

Harrick ran John Wooden's old offensive system of precise basketball plays. Dennis Felton will run mainly the motion offense. Harrick believed defense was what happened between his team's points. Felton believes defense is a battle of wills and frantic footwork. Harrick left the Bulldogs during the middle of an NCAA investigation. Felton has vowed to erase any stain left on the program.

But they're in perfect sync when it comes to singing the praises of Rashad Wright.

"I just love him," Felton said. "I can't say enough about Rashad."

Wright fit perfectly into Harrick's system. He started all 27 games last year and played more minutes than any Bulldog (33.3 minutes per game), averaging 7.8 points and 5.5 assists per game.

This year, he'll have to change his game, but neither Felton nor Wright is worried about how the senior point guard will react to a more fluid system.

"We're into playing basketball," Felton said, "and Rashad is an incredible player."

Wright said, "I'm a player who likes to learn new things."

He is the only player in Georgia history with at least 100 assists in each of his first three seasons, and he is one of only four Bulldogs with 400 or more in his career.

"He understands how to make the pass in the right way to the right spot at the right time to the right player," said Harrick, who is now a scout and coaching consultant with the NBA's Denver Nuggets. "He kind of spoon feeds players. All they have to do is catch it and shoot it."

Felton said Wright's understanding of the game has allowed him to teach his system at a higher level because Wright picks things up so quickly.

"He has the two most important elements -- intensity and understanding," Felton said.

Felton says Wright could be the best point guard in the SEC, however, the Statesboro native wasn't selected first- or second-team All-SEC last week by the media members who cover the conference. If the slight bothers Wright, he's not saying. He doesn't say much of anything, in fact.

He said his goal this year is "just to play hard and help our team get better."

"It doesn't matter if we win the SEC or how many games we win as long as we play hard together, work hard and have fun," he said.

That's about all you get out of Wright off the court, clipped and cliched answers. It was one of the concerns Felton had about him when he first met Wright: Would he be a vocal leader? That worry was quickly erased.

"He's not quiet at all out there on the basketball court," Felton said. "He leads his team. He commands respect."

Wright will have to expand his role this year, though. Georgia lost more than 55 points per game from last year's team, and scoring hasn't been Wright's specialty. He shot just 37 percent from the field last season.

"I'll have to take more shots," he said, "do whatever I need to do."

Wright needs to expand the range on his jump shot to increase his chances of playing beyond this season, Harrick said.

"He is a very, very, very good 17, 18-foot shooter," Harrick said. "I'd want him to take every 17, 18 footer I had, but as he grows, and he will, he needs to increase his range."

Harrick said he would "highly recommend" the Nuggets take Wright if they didn't have two points guards already.

"I don't think there's any question that Rashad can play at the next level," Harrick said. "The only thing I worry about is I don' t know if very many people know how good the guy is. He covers every aspect of the game."

Harrick compared Wright to former Michigan State player Eric Snow of the Philadelphia 76ers

"Nobody had heard of the guy, and he's been in the league (11 years) and is just solid," Harrick said. "That's what Rashad Wright is." Dennis Felton couldn't agree more.

Rashad Wright
Point guard
6-foot-3/190 pounds
Major: Sports studies
High school: Statesboro
High school honors: All-class, all-state selection ... Led Statesboro to state quarterfinals in senior season ... averaged 20.1 ppg, 7.2 apg,
8.9 rpg and 6.1 spg as senior
College honors: Three-year starter ... led SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio as sophomore (plus-2.32) ... Had plus-2.98 assist-to-turnover
ratio as junior ... 11th player in UGA with 500 career point and 300 career assists
FYI: Will write "Fly" and "Cal" on each shoe this year to honor his parents...

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