Coaches demand, Wright supplies abundant talent QUEEN OF THE COURT

December 16, 1994|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

Western's Chanel Wright makes it look so effortless.

Jump shots from 15 feet that touch nothing but net.

Slashing and --ing through opposing defenses for uncontested layups.

Precision touch passes to her teammates on the fast break.

A confidence that she exudes every time she touches the ball. A quiet demeanor that is imperturbable.

It's hard to believe that it has been only three years since Wright was an insecure freshman who nearly gave up basketball because she didn't think she could handle the emotional strain.

First, there was the pressure of the high expectations that were placed on Wright, who was the main cog in one of the most highly touted freshman classes to enter an area school.

Then there were the demands of Western coach Breezy Bishop, a strict disciplinarian who has no tolerance for complacency.

To make matters worse, some of Western's upperclassmen showed open resentment toward Wright and the other freshmen.

That was quite a lot for a sensitive 14-year-old to handle.

"It was hard on me. It felt like we were intruding on [the upperclassmen's] team," said Wright, a 6-foot swing player. "And Miss Bishop was always in my face, always down my throat, especially about my defense. I came home and cried every day. I thought I wasn't going to make it."

Wright smiles as she reflects on her past, acknowledging that she has made it.

Recognized as the top girls basketball player in the state and one of the best in the nation, Wright is a three-time Amateur Athletic Union All-American, a three-time All-Metro selection and The Baltimore Sun's 1993-94 co-Player of the Year.

She also was named to All-America teams by Parade and Street & Smith's magazines.

Last season, Wright averaged 22.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists to lead the Doves to the Class 4A state title.

Along the way, she surpassed Dana Johnson (now a starter for top-ranked Tennessee) to become Western's all-time leading scorer (1,295 points).

She has scored a total of 47 points in No. 1 Western's two victories this season and has scored in double digits in every game throughout her high school career.

Last month, Wright signed an early letter of intent to North Carolina.

Yes, she has made it.

Wright began playing basketball in recreation leagues at age 8, although softball was her first love.

"My first few years, I didn't know anything about basketball," said Wright, who is also an All-City volleyball player. "But by the time I was 10, I was taller than everyone else, and I had progressed a lot. I started playing against 12- and 13-year-old boys. At that point, I made up my mind that I wanted to stick with basketball."

Wright played AAU basketball for Free Play, a team coached by her stepfather, Frank Moses.

She credits Moses, who helped raise her since she was 6 months old, with developing her talent.

"I said, 'If you really want it, you'll have to put in the time,' " Moses said. "When you think you've learned it all, there's someone else who can do it three times better than you."

Said Wright: "He was hard on me. He always told me that I still have a long way to go, that I'm not there yet. He still tells me that."

Playing for Breezy

If anything, Moses' no-nonsense approach should have prepared Wright for the in-your-face coaching style of Bishop.

But the fact that Moses was a loving stepfather perhaps took some of the sting out of his words. There was no such bond with Bishop, who said that she sends just about every player home from practice at least once because of a lack of focus or discipline.

Wright was not an exception.

"Her whole first week of practice, she went home crying," Bishop said. "Her mother called me and asked what I was doing to her daughter. I told her not to overreact. Before learning can take place, you have to listen."

Wright weathered that first week and has not been dismissed from practice since.

"Miss Bishop is a good coach. She was preparing me for the future, and it has paid off," Wright said. "I'm mentally tough, and I know how to handle tough coaches now. I'm listening to what they have to say instead of the way they're saying it."

Said Bishop: "Sometimes when you ride a player and you're in their face constantly, that player is glad to get away from you. But somewhere down the line, the phone will ring and all they'll say is 'Thanks, coach. The discipline I learned with you I can use for the rest of my life.' "

There is an understanding of mutual respect between Bishop and Wright, although Bishop seems uncertain whether their relationship goes any deeper.

"I have no idea what she thinks of me because she doesn't open up to me," Bishop said. "At times, I think she's still afraid of me. After four years, I can truly say that I don't really know her. All I know is that she's a joy to coach and I like her as a person."

Sharing the limelight

Although Wright said that she appreciates all the recognition she has received, she makes an effort not to overshadow her teammates.

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