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February 14, 2007

Wright saves best for biggest games

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In his first game at Duke, North Carolina's Brandan Wright was able to keep any jitters at arm's length. For the 6-foot-9 forward with a wingspan exceeding 7 feet, that's quite an accomplishment.

The Cameron Crazies didn't faze Wright. He scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the No. 4 Tar Heels, who defeated Duke 79-73 on Feb. 7.

Because of Wright's poise in North Carolina's victories over Duke and Wake Forest this week, Rivals.com named the forward our National Freshman of the Week.

"He's so mature," said George Pitts, Wright's coach at Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy. "It doesn't surprise me at all. I never recalled Brandan ever being uptight or nervous or scared of any venue we played in."

Wright also had 15 points, seven rebounds and a career-high five assists in North Carolina's 104-67 win over Wake Forest in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

He didn't score as much as other freshmen this week, but Wright's composure and efficiency stood out above the rest. Wright was 16-for-19 from the field and committed only two personal fouls on the week.

That's the kind of production that has become expected of the freshman who was ranked behind only Greg Oden and Kevin Durantin the class of 2006. Wright is the ACC leader in field goal shooting at 65.4 percent. He has committed three or four fouls only three times in 24 games.

"He never fouled out of a high school game," said Pitts, who now coaches at NAIA King College in Bristol, Tenn. "He just knows how to play."

Wright's presence has kept opponents from keying on Tyler Hansbrough. The sophomore is again leading the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding.

"My favorite thing to do is get an assist - pass it off, make a good pass," Wright told CarolinaBlue.com. "When I go up for a shot, if the defense is geared on me then I see Tyler down there wide open. I'm going to pass it off in a minute. ... It's kind of hard to double-team both of us."

Wright missed North Carolina's 92-64 win over Arizona in Tucson with a stomach virus. Pitts wasn't surprised Wright kept his composure at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the toughest road test of his young career.

Freshman of the Week
Players named Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week from the 2006-2007 season.
Jan. 1-7: Kevin Durant, Texas
Jan. 8-14: Kevin Durant, Texas
Jan. 15-21: Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Jan. 22-28: Brook Lopez, Stanford
Jan. 29-Feb. 4: Kevin Durant, Texas
"The bigger the game, the bigger Brandan was," Pitts said.

Also nominated for Freshman of the Week:

• Texas point guard D.J. Augustin scored 31 points with six assists against Iowa State on Saturday. He added 23 points with five assists in the 100-82 loss to Texas A&M on Monday. He was 14 of 24 from the field and 22-for-23 from the free-throw line for the week.

• Washington center Spencer Hawes returned to the starting lineup and scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 64-52 win over Stanford on Sunday. He had 16 points and five rebounds in a 79-71 win over Cal on Thursday.

• Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez scored 18 points in a 72-60 win over Duke on Sunday. He had 13 points in a 69-65 loss to Virginia on Feb. 6.

• Tennessee forward Wayne Chism scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Volunteers' 84-57 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

• Arizona forward Chase Budinger scored 30 points added 10 rebounds in the Wildcats' 77-74 win at Oregon on Saturday.

• Kansas guard Sherron Collins contributed 11 points and seven assists in a 97-70 win over Kansas State on Wednesday. He added 14 points and seven assists in a 92-74 win over Missouri on Saturday. Collins came off the bench in both games.

CarolinaBlue.com contributed to this report.

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