Wright place, Wright time
By Elliott Propes | Staff ReporterBy Elliott Propes | 02/11/2015 11:43pm
Shereka Wright (center), an assistant coach for the women's basketball team, used to play for the team's current head coach, Kristy Curry, at Purdue. CW File
The year was 2000 and it was Kristy Curry’s second year as head coach at Purdue University. Curry thought she was going to have another successful season after second-round exit in the tournament earlier that spring. Along with some returners from her first season, Curry had welcomed some new freshmen. Two of whom are named Shereka Wright and Lindsey Hicks.
What Curry did not know was that these two young ladies would lead Curry to four of the best seasons she has ever coached. What she also did not know is both of them would be beside her coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide 14 years later.
“Those four years were just great. As a senior class we were one of the most winningest classes of the Big Ten,” Wright said. "It was a great experience. Each and every year I learned something new about myself and just enjoyed the competiveness of the Big Ten.”
Curry said she knew Wright was going to make immediate impact. Wright was a great high school player from the state of Texas and her senior season won the USA Today high school player of the year. She could go anywhere she wanted to go in the country and decided to commit to Purdue with the highest-ranked recruiting class in the nation. She and her classmates wanted to win a national title, like the team had done the year before Curry had arrived. Curry said she was very impressed with how Wright practiced and knew she was somebody special.
“I can’t remember a day in four years that she wasn’t the hardest working player in practice," Curry said. "The thing that always amazed me about Shereka was that she practiced as hard as game time."
Wright and the Boilermakers had a spectacular 2000-2001 season. They won the Big Ten conference regular-season title and qualified once again for the NCAA Tournament. Wright had an excellent tournament and was on the Final Four all-tournament team. Purdue made it all the way to the championship and Wright was ever so close to the dream she had. The game came down to the wire, but Notre Dame won 68-66.
“That experience as a freshman just making the final four and the championship game was pretty incredible,” Hicks said. “Its something that a lot of players don’t get to experience, so I’m really grateful for it.”
The Boilermakers made the tournament each of the next three seasons, but Wright and Hicks never made it back to the championship game. Their senior season Purdue made the Sweet 16. It was the closest they ever got, but it was not to be. In their four years, Purdue had an overall record of 113-23.
“My favorite part [of Purdue years] was getting to know my teammates and going through those ups and downs together,” Hicks said. “Still when we are 30-something years old we are still close. I can call any of my teammates and they are right there for me.”
Shortly after the season ended, Wright was drafted No. 13 overall to the Detroit Shock of the WNBA. She only played two seasons and suffered from an Achilles' tendon tear. She joined Curry at Texas Tech and was with her all seven years. At Alabama, she is one of the main assistant coaches along with being the recruiting coordinator. Hicks went on to play six years of pro basketball in foreign nations before being hired by Curry as the video coordinator for the Crimson Tide in 2013.
“I remember before I got drafted I told [Curry] that my ultimate goal was to actually get into coaching, it was something that I enjoyed,” Wright said. “When I did get that phone call from her I was definitely thrilled.”
Curry and her staff are looking to build the kind of program Purdue had at the beginning of the 2000s, but she has not had the kind of year she wanted. So far Alabama is 1-9 in the SEC. Curry reiterated throughout the season that it is a process, and the main goal is to just improve day-to-day. Wright said they are working towards creating a culture like that of the old Purdue teams.
“When you compare [Alabama] to Purdue, Purdue has had success for many, many years, and I think that is always the standard,” Wright said. “I absolutely think that it [the program] can get back to the where it needs to be and be competitive each and every year in the SEC, and I know all of us on the staff is committed to doing that.”
Each game is another step for the Alabama program, and Wright believes each brick laid in the foundation will turn into a house like Purdue built. The Crimson Tide is back home Thursday, hosting the Missouri Tigers at 8 p.m.