A Winning Relationship

Kia Wright and Angela Clark relate to each other like the sun and the moon do. On the surface, the celestial bodies seem to exist irrespective of each others’ actions. The lunar light is only present because of the solar light. In much the same way, the women’s basketball team is spearheaded on the court by two entities that appear to be quite different, but closer inspection shows how much of a symbiotic relationship they have.

The differences are obvious. In addition to the five-inch disparity in height, their styles of play are also starkly different.

Wright calmly inbounds the ball, dribbles down court, and launches high-arching shots like a cannon launches cannonballs. Pass distribution and stingy defense are also the hallmarks of her play. Clark does more of the dirty work. She battles with the other teams’ biggest players, rebounds, and creates her shots through physical maneuvering and her quick feet.

The similarities, however, are more subtle and are ultimately what make them so important to the team. In addition to both being First Team All-Big East selections, first team All-Met selections, and appearing in all of the team’s games last season, the seniors took chances. Coach Kim Barnes Arico remembers the initial risks that the pair took in coming to St. John’s in the first place.

“It was very difficult at first (to recruit), but last year our recruiting class was from all over the country,” Barnes Arico said. “I actually give a lot of credit to Angela because she was one of the first kids that said, ‘I’m going to take a chance on coach and I’m going to take a chance on the St. John’s program. I’m going to be one of the kids that comes and leaves my mark on the program and not one of those kids that goes to an established program already.’ She took a chance and Kia followed and they really took a chance when a lot of kids would have been afraid to do something like that.”

Their seeming leaps of faith paid immediate dividends for St. John’s. In Clark’s freshman campaign with the team, she scored 12.1 points per game and had 8.6 rebounds per game. The team’s record improved to 10-18 from 8-19 and they earned a trip to the Big East Tournament. Wright transferred the next year and helped the team’s record jump to 20-11 with the duo combining to score 766 points. Last year, Clark and Wright scored 859 of the 2,133 Red Storm’s points and were instrumental for the team’s first NCAA tournament bid in 18 years.

Their on-the-court talents are enough to make any team desire their services, but they still bring more to the team through experience. Their veteran leadership is a trait that this year’s team will be short on. Greeba Barlow, Danielle Chambers, and Tara Walker are no longer here and have been replaced by new faces. The new cast, including Joy McCorvey, Victoria Hodges, and Allie Patterson, will depend upon the coaches as well as older teammates to show them the way.

“It’s been tough (the transition from high school to college), but…it’s been fun at the same time,” said McCorvey, a freshman forward from Alabama. “They (Clark and Wright) have had a great impact on me, especially Angela because she plays in the post and I’m a post player and she works with me a lot on my post game and she’s like a role model to me. She’s tall but she isn’t big for her size and I’m tall but not big for my size. Kia helps me on my guard game. [She helps] me see the floor more so they have both made an impact.”

The impact that the seniors have had on the team is only surpassed by the impact that all the injuries have had. Clark has been sidelined with an undisclosed physical ailment and will be away from the team for an unspecified amount of time. Wright has been hampered with a sports hernia and a sprain but has not allowed the injuries to lessen her influence on the team.

“I’ve been able to sit back and look at areas where the team needs me the most,” the senior guard said. “It’s just been very helpful sitting out being a coach on the sidelines and improving my skills on and off the court.”

Wright’s newfound understanding will be a major plus for a team that will start the season without many of the projected starters and will have to rely on one of the team’s bright lights to spread her wealth of light to the entire team.