Want intensity? Just watch LaToya Wright.
By John Ring
LaToya Wright barely broke a sweat on Monday afternoon in Galesburgs 68-40 win over Orion at John Thiel Gym.
She did score 12 of the Silver Streaks first 14 points. She finished the game with a team-high 14, even though she played just a little over eight minutes on the court.
But in the process of LaToya hitting three-point shots, driving to the basket and making steals, you remember the first time you saw her at Thiel Gym playing for the Streaks.
That was in the summer of 2002 during a Streaks tournament. The first day LaToya practiced, she was wearing Kewanee Wethersfield gear the school that she transferred from.
Two things immediately stood out about LaToya her speed and athleticism. No one knew about her shooting range, her work ethic, her ability to get rebounds, nothing else. But she sure had some tools to work with. And she seemed to fit in with her new teammates.
That sophomore year, Wright led Coach Mike Ruxs team to a perfect 23-0 record. She was the leading scorer and rebounder. The transition was complete but the best was yet to come.
Last season as a junior, LaToya led the varsity in scoring (15.8) and rebounding (6.2). But teams tended to collapse on her later in the season, smothering her with double-teams.
Not anymore. When Wright played in her first game this season, she was shooting the three, making moves to the basket and looked reborn.
"I knew after my sophomore year that if I was to be an impact player on the varsity, I had to step up," said Wright after the win over Orion. "I wanted to give it my best shot."
Her best shot was working on her shot. "I constantly worked on it. I increased my range. I shot a lot by myself. I shot with friends. Right now, Im pretty confident in it."
"LaToya has improved a lot for us each year," said Coach Evan Massey. "Last year she was just more comfortable in our offense and knew what to look for in terms of scoring opportunities. I also think that playing against varsity competition challenged her to look for ways to improve."
"LaToya reminds me of Shannell Jackson in that both of them quietly on their own invested time in their shot. I heard several people mention to me that they saw Toya last summer in a park with her brother shooting."
Another change is LaToyas game face. After just two years in the Streak basketball program, LaToya Wright is among the most intense Galesburg players you will want to see on the floor.
"I hate losing," said LaToya. "I hate it so much. Im like my teammates in that I will do anything possible on the court to win the game. Whatever it takes. I try to encourage my teammates. If we dont get a rebound, well get the next one."
"LaToya is very competitive," said Massey. "She has a lot of pride and I definitely think that when things get tough for us, she seems to just play harder. She may be one of the most intense competitors we have ever had."
The 58" post plays taller than her height. In fact, her combination of shooting, quickness and rebounding is a rarity over the last decade of Silver Streak players. In just two years at the varsity level, Wright has put together numbers that are comparable to players such as Megan Pacheco, Sarah Larson or Molly Watson.
But its that inside fire, that drive to win that is also an intangible with LaToya Wright.
"As a team, we want to leave an impression with the fans as to how good we can play. We know what we can do as a team. We want to play hard every game, it doesnt matter if its Orion or Moline or Richwoods."
LaToya looked out upon the floor of John Thiel Gym.
"You play your heart out," she said, "because we dont have a lot of games left out there."
On her future: "Im going to play basketball at a college next year but Im undecided as to where that will be. I have an idea of where I might go but I havent made that decision yet."
On her best memory as a Silver Streak: "The Quincy game stands out for me this season. It was my first game back and it was at home. I think I had a pretty good game. There was a little fight there near the end (laughs). Rachel pendry and I talk a lot about swatting people and I blocked a shot right over there in the corner late in the game. That was really, really nice."
On her unbeaten sophomore season: "That was a good way to start. We had a nice team and a great season. We left our mark."
On Richwoods: "To beat them, we just have to play our game. Were a good team. We just need to do what were good at doing. In the last game we played them, we tried some things we ordinarily dont do and we lost. We just need to focus and play Galesburg basketball."
On playing Moline this Thursday night: "We have some unfinished business with them."