Kia Wright gets invite to New York Liberty camp

All Kia Wright has wanted since she was a young player in Copiague, N.Y. was to play professional basketball. But an injury-plagued junior year of college almost turned that desire into a just a dream or, worse, a distant memory.

When the WNBA Draft came and went last week without Wright’s name being called, it seemed those fears were confirmed. Most of the players chosen were members of NCAA Tournament teams with a few international players sprinkled into the mix.

But it was still not the end of the road for Wright.

The following day, papers were finalized, and Wright, as well as teammate senior forward Tiina Sten, were invited to WNBA team training camps: Wright to the New York Liberty and Sten to the Los Angeles Sparks.

“When Tiina texted me I was jumping up and down,” Wright said. “This is very exciting.”

Terms of Wright’s training camp invitation were not disclosed by the Liberty. However, Wright told The Torch her interpretation.

“I don’t know if anybody knows this yet,” Wright said, “but I believe, after reading my contract, I am officially a New York Liberty.

“There is still a training camp, but I believe I’m already in there.”

Now, standing at 5-foot-8, Kia Wright is showing fans and critics that a big WNBA style game can be found in a small-guard package. Wright, the only player in St. John’s women’s basketball history to score over 1,500 points and dish out 400 assists, was invited to attend the Pre-WNBA Draft Camp that took place on April 4-5.

Wright received the news on Easter morning from head coach Kim Barnes-Arico after practice and was the first player to receive the invitation during the Barnes-Arico era.

“We were wrapping up practice and then coach made the announcement and all I could do was smile,” Wright said. “I had no words.”

Wright was supposed to leave practice early that day so she could meet with family at church. After finding out about the invitation, she couldn’t wait to go to Easter Sunday service and tell them the good news.

“I first told my mom sitting right next to me,” Wright said. “Easter Day – it just felt like a big blessing.”

Barnes-Arico has always seen qualities that have separated Wright from the competition.

“I’ve been coaching for 15 years and Kia has to be the best player I’ve coached,” Barnes-Arico said. “She plays at a different level and has a unique feel for the game.”

Wright mentally prepared for the task ahead of her. She spoke with childhood friend and former AAU teammate Cori Chambers about what was going to be expected of her.

Chambers, a former University of Georgia standout, was a 2007 second round WNBA Draft pick and also spent some time playing overseas.

After speaking to Chambers, Wright was put at ease until she arrived in Tampa, Fla. at 10 a.m. on April 3. “My stomach was turning and making flips,” she said with a chuckle.

Wright said she saw some of the top seniors in basketball there and thought to herself that to be among the best. She felt as if she was finally getting noticed for all the hard work and was “appreciative that someone was giving [her] a chance.”

When Wright returned from the draft camp, she felt confident. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she said.

Wright awaited a phone call last Wednesday to inform her on whether she was drafted or not. When asked whether she preferred to stay in New York, she said: “It would be nice but, right now, I can’t be too picky.”

The New York Liberty, coming into their twelfth season, will open its 2008 training camp on April 20 at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y.

“It has been a struggle,” Wright said, “but I realized I am a great player and you don’t have to come from a number one seed like UConn. “It’s how bad you want it and how hard you work.”

As a result of her hard work and dedication to the Red Storm, Barnes-Arico said that Wright has set a tremendous example for her younger teammates and has opened many doors for St. John’s basketball.

“She’s a total team player, puts the team first, doesn’t care about her individual stats, does what’s best for the team – she’s a winner,” Barnes-Arico said. “I hope she is able to show the best of her ability to the Liberty.”

Aside from her accomplishments on the hardwood, Wright will be graduating next month with a degree in sports management and a minor in communications. And, if she weren’t playing basketball, Wright still wanted to stay in the athletic field by signing on as a sports broadcaster or coaching a high school team.

“It’s been five long years and I know my family will be proud of me getting my degree because they were there through everything, even when I felt like quitting,” Wright said. “I can’t wait.”