CHICAGO (AP) -- Georgetown point guard Chris Wright will be quite happy if he never sees a stair climber again.
Wright logged hours on the machine over the last three weeks, powerless to stop the Hoyas' four-game losing skid because of a broken left hand. He's back now, though, giving Georgetown hope the third part of its season will end better than the second part.
The sixth-seeded Hoyas (21-10) play 11th-seeded VCU, winner of one of the "First Four" games, in the second round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.
"Having him back in our lineup is really good," leading scorer Austin Freeman said Thursday. "Just to have his ability to penetrate, get to the basket, create his own shot and also be able to create shots for his teammates. It's going to be good to have that back in our lineup, and also have his voice back on court. He's one of our captains, one of our leaders."
After struggling early in the Big East season, Georgetown found its groove again with an eight-game winning streak that included victories at both Villanova and Syracuse. But with 15:54 left against Cincinnati on Feb. 23, Wright broke his non-shooting hand when he lost possession in the paint and committed a foul as he reached for the ball.
Wright had surgery the following day, and the Hoyas were optimistic they'd get him back for the NCAA tournament. But the senior is Georgetown's emotional leader, and the Hoyas were clearly befuddled without him. Georgetown averaged just 51.5 points in its last four games, all losses, and was embarrassed by both Cincinnati (22-point loss) and UConn (17 points).
Wright was averaging 13.1 points and 5.4 assists when he got hurt and leads the team with 41 steals. In the last three games before he broke his hand, he was averaging 21.7 points on 50 percent shooting.
"It was tough knowing you can help and you can provide leadership for your team, and it was tough to sit through that," Wright said. "I wasn't looking at it as, 'Gosh, I can't believe this is it for me.' I'm just trying to be there any way I could for my team."
While Wright tried to be a cheerleader, the best way he could help the Hoyas was to get back on the court as quickly as possible. Aside from all that time on the stair stepper -- "Probably harder than anything I've ever had to do. That's very hard. I don't want to do it anymore." -- he took dozens of one-handed jumpers and layups so he'd be relatively in shape once he was cleared to return to full-contact practice.
That came Monday.
"Nothing is restricted or anything. Just go out there and play," said Wright, who wasn't wearing any kind of brace or wrap on his left hand during Thursday afternoon's practice at the United Center and finished the session by swishing a half-court shot. "My teammates came up to me and said, 'You look fine; you played fine.' I wasn't favoring it or anything. So I feel good."
As thrilled as the Hoyas are to have Wright back, coach John Thompson III said they can't fool themselves and think his absence was the only problem in the late-season skid.
"Everyone has to do their job," he said. "It's not just, 'OK, you plop Chris into the equation so that means it's going to be smooth sailing.' It's not going to be that easy, especially against the opponent that we have."
VCU (24-11) was much maligned after getting an at-large bid, skidding into Wednesday night's game against USC with five losses in its previous eight games. But the Rams were quick to respond, outmuscling the bigger, stronger Trojans for a 59-46 victory.
Now comes another big-name opponent, and VCU has to prepare on the fly. The Rams got to Chicago about 3 a.m. Thursday and started watching Georgetown film a few hours before their practice at the United Center.
"We're fine. We're young guys," said Joey Rodriguez, who had eight points and five assists against USC. "I felt like I could have played today, to tell you the truth. We're all fine."
The Rams know they won't be given much chance against the Hoyas -- Clemson, another "First Four" team, wore down in its loss to West Virginia on Thursday -- and that's fine. They're thriving off proving people wrong.
But don't expect the Hoyas to be among the doubters. Georgetown returned most of the team that lost to 13th-seeded Ohio in the first round last year, and memories of that game remain fresh.
"One thing that we said at the beginning of the season is that we want to finish with our own legacy, not be remembered for the people before us and hopefully not after us," Wright said. "It feels good in some ways that I can control that."