Wright doesn't miss a beat for UNC Western grad adjusts to college game quickly

January 20, 1996|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Like any college freshman away from home, Baltimore's Chanel Wright has had to adapt to major changes in her life at the University of North Carolina.

There is the responsibility of living on her own for the first time. Sleep, which once was taken for granted, has become a cherished rarity, and late nights in the study hall have become the norm. And then there's the long-distance phone bill from calling her friends at home and in other states.

On the basketball court, however, very little has changed for Wright, The Sun's two-time High School Player of the Year from Western.

Just as she did in high school when she made the All-Metro team as a freshman, Wright has made an immediate impact with the Tar Heels, who play Maryland at Cole Field House tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Wright, a 6-0 shooting guard, has started every game and is among the top 10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (15.1) and rebounding (7.1). She leads ACC freshmen in both categories.

"It's flattering that I'm starting," said Wright, Western's all-time leading scorer who led the Doves to Class 4A state championships her junior and senior years. "I just wanted to come in with the right attitude and work hard, whether I was starting or not."

Wright, an inside-outside threat, has helped North Carolina (9-5) -- whose starting five consists of two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior -- get off to a surprising 4-1 start in the ACC.

Last week, Wright was named ACC Rookie of the Week after av

eraging 22.0 points in two North Carolina victories, including a career-high 26 in a 93-68 win over then-No. 23 Clemson.

Wright's solid play become more significant when Tar Heels leading scorer and rebounder Tracy Reid, their only returning starter, missed four games this month with a sprained left ankle.

Wright was the leading scorer (17.7) and rebounder (7.0) during Reid's absence, as North Carolina won three of four.

"She is not playing like a freshman," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "She has stepped up, especially when Tracy Reid got hurt. We are very pleased with Chanel."

Wright, a Parade High School All-American last season, attributed her success in part to Western coach Breezy Bishop.

"She really prepared me a lot mentally and physically and to be able to handle pressure," Wright said.

Wright, who scored in double figures in every game during her high school career, struggled on offense early this season. But after scoring a combined 25 points in her first three games, she has scored in double figures in every game since.

"Everything is starting to fall in place," said Wright, who earned a 3.0 grade-point average last semester. "But I still have a long way to go."

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