Western's Wright plays same game as Johnson

March 02, 1994|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

To be mentioned in the same breath as Dana Johnson is the highest praise a basketball player at Western can receive.

Johnson, who is honored by a banner hanging in Western's gym, was The Baltimore Sun's 1990-91 Player of the Year and a Parade All-American.

Now a college junior, Johnson is a starter for top-ranked Tennessee. She was Western's most highly recruited athlete in the school's illustrious history.

Until now.

The phone at Western coach Breezy Bishop's house has been ringing like never before. Bishop said that "every major college in the country" has expressed interest in the Doves' 6-foot junior guard/forward Chanel Wright.

Wright, who also attended the same elementary and middle schools as Johnson, has narrowed her college choices to North Carolina, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Purdue, Virginia and Tennessee.

But the comparison of Wright to Johnson goes further.

Although Johnson was a burly center who dominated inside and Wright -- the area's third-leading scorer at 21.7 points per game -- is more of a finesse player, Bishop sees similar qualities in them.

"Both Dana and Chanel have excellent listening skills, an ingredient that you love as a coach," said Bishop, who expects Wright to sign early in November. "As talented as Chanel is, she always wants to learn.

"You can show her a play on the sideline one time and she has it registered. With a blink of an eye, the play has unfolded."

The major difference between the two is their skill level before coming to Western.

Johnson was raw, inexperienced and somewhat out of condition.

Wright, on the other hand, arrived at Western with some impressive credentials.

She was a two-time Amateur Athletic Union All-American and was a member of Free Play, which finished fifth in the AAU national tournament in 1991.

Wright, who has been playing basketball since she was 8, attributes the development of her skills to her stepfather Frank Moses, her AAU coach and current head coach at the Institute of Notre Dame.

"All I did was refine her skills and work on her defensive game and versatility," Bishop said. "It was a matter of her moving from an AAU player to a varsity player."

Wright has made that transition about as smoothly as one of her 12-foot baseline jumpers.

Her impact at Western was immediate. Wright led the Doves in scoring during her freshman and sophomore years and was a first-team All-Metro selection both seasons.

This season, she has taken her game to a higher level. In addition to again leading the second-ranked Doves (19-2) in scoring, Wright is also the team's leading rebounder (9.2 per game).

Wright has amassed 1,164 career points, becoming the first Western junior to reach the 1,000-point plateau.

She is second on the Doves' all-time scoring list behind Johnson (1,222).

Wright thinks her defensive game needs improving, but it is her versatility that has most impressed Bishop as well as opposing coaches.

"She can do it all," Walbrook coach Pete Connally said. "She's not the best guard or the best forward or the best rebounder. But combined, she's the best all-around player in the area."

When Wright was an incoming freshman, Bishop claimed that Wright could play all five positions and she has done exactly that.

With her ability to shoot off the dribble, penetrate and hit from outside, Wright is a natural shooting guard.

But when Western needs help inside, Bishop looks to Wright.

Wright's basketball ability, as well as her unselfish nature, was exemplified in the Doves' 81-61 victory over Lake Clifton on Jan. 31.

In that game, she produced what Bishop calls "the greatest shooting performance I have ever seen."

Wright made her first seven shots and 11 of 13, scoring 32 of her career-high 38 points in the first half.

After the game, Wright only would discuss the team's effort.

"I always know there's someone out there better than me," Wright said. "My father always told me not to get a big head. I just go out there and try to play my game."

Humility and modesty.

Yet more traits that Wright and Johnson share.

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