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The Roadblock

The league is wide open and Starla Wright may tip the scales for the Vikings

Posted: January 11, 2009 6:29 p.m.
Updated: January 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia senior post player Starla Wright plays with a determination that could earn the Vikings the league championship.

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Hart High head basketball coach Zach Koebel goes one-on-one with a select few of his players at practice.

Megan Ford, now a center at Cal Poly Pomona, was one of his favorites last year in his first season leading the Indians.

Not that Ford needed much motivation, after all she was the Foothill League's most dominant player over the last two seasons, but Koebel provided a little extra after a game against Valencia.

Valencia post player Starla Wright, who came into a Jan. 11, 2008 meeting with Hart having not scored more than 16 points in any game, burned Ford for 22 points in a Vikings 62-58 victory.

It marked the end of Hart's 20-game Foothill League winning streak.

So Koebel playfully rubbed it in Ford's face.

"Every time he scored, he said, ‘Doesn't this remind you of Starla? Remember this?'" Ford recalls.

Starla Wright is poised to make others remember who she is in her senior season.

A relentless forward/center, Wright is arguably the most tenacious player in the Foothill League.

A prime example of that relentlessness came Thursday against El Segundo.

Midway through the second quarter, Wright missed a shot in the paint, then slapped the rebound away from two defenders and grabbed it. After a miss on the same possession, she poked the ball out to Danielle Cavanagh, who drained a jumper.

With Valencia up by 28 in the fourth quarter, Wright barked from the bench, "Man up, no threes."

That was after El Segundo drained two shots from beyond the arc to begin the frame. The team missed its final 10.

It's an oddity when you compare Wright's desire on the basketball court to other players or high school athletes in general.

Vikings head coach Jerry Mike says Wright does it all.
She defends everybody. She dives for loose balls. She rebounds like Rodman.

That's just in practice.

"I've had some really outstanding players - (eventual NCAA Division I players) Kelley Tarver and Day Weathersby. Those players, they took practice serious and went all out," Mike says. "That's how (Wright) is. Practice is like a game."

But why?

You ask every coach in this valley if there's a kid who gives it their all during practice and they would say there are only a handful.

"Just the love of the game," Wright reasons. "I go hard because, I sound like such a teamly person, it's about the team. If I try hard, I know my teammates will have my back so I'm doing it for them as well as myself."

It's hard to explain how genuine Wright is without describing the look on her face as she speaks.

A broad smile breaks as she talks about hard work and basketball.

In the first nine sentences that come out of her mouth, the word team or teammates makes its appearance nine times.

But the real reason that she works so hard is because she is giving something back to basketball.

Without it, Wright would be in a shell, she admits.

"I have a lot of confidence when I'm on the court," Wright says. "I feel pretty big. I feel like no one can stop me."

She found the game as a fifth grader and fell in love. As a seventh grader, she played in a parks and recreation league, but parents complained that she was too good, so she had to be bumped up a level.

Wright cut her teeth on the Chatsworth High varsity team as a sophomore before arriving at Valencia for the 2007-08 season.

Her arrival moment came that Jan. 11, 2008 night.

"I was just so happy coming out there saying, ‘We've got to win. We've got to play tough. I'm not letting up on Megan because she's trying hard to beat us,'" Wright recalls.

Wright didn't let up. She may not have been on the radar before, but she certainly was now.

The 5-foot-10-inch senior has raised her scoring average from last season four points to 15.8 and rebounds by two to 9.1 per game this season.

Paying her a large compliment is Koebel.

"She's a workhorse," he says. "She works into 15, 20 points (per game). She's the one I'm most worried about in league."

In a league where it could be anyone's championship, Wright creates the biggest mess because she's all over the place.

In the end, she hopes the mess will create a roadblock to every other squad in the Foothill League.


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