Knicks: Keith Wright’s Journey From Harvard To Westchester
Since Keith Wright arrived in Westchester, he’s been a solid contributor to the Knicks. Wright is a player to keep an eye on at the NBA D-League Showcase.
Nine years ago, Keith Wright joined the Harvard Crimson. He improved year-by-year and the program started to experience more success as his collegiate career went on. During his junior season, Harvard made to the National Invitation Tournament—the first time in the program’s history—but couldn’t win their first-round match-up.
In the same season, Wright had the best year of his collegiate career. He averaged 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game on 58.4 percent shooting from the field. In addition, the program won its first Ivy League championship.
Coming off a season like that, he was on the Top 50 preseason watch list for the Wooden Award.
Wright managed to carry over the success he had during his junior season into the following year. He posted solid numbers during his senior season, which led to him being named to the All-Ivy League Second Team.
In that same season, the Crimson appeared on the AP Poll for the first time in program history.
Harvard finished the season with a 26-5 record and made the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in 66 years. While the result wasn’t the outcome the program was looking for, the player’s goal was to make history.
“I mean it was just a culmination of hard work. The senior class that I was there with— Andrew Van Nest, Oliver McNally. It was a goal that we set out: to make history,” Keith Wright said. “That was really all of our hard work come to fruition.”
Harvard maintained their success for the next few seasons. In 2013, they won their first-ever game in the NCAA Tournament with a six-point victory over New Mexico.
The program won at least 20 games for the next three seasons, along with making the Tournament.
“To see after we left, the program still got better and they were able to rattle off a couple of wins in the Tournament,” Wright added. “It was cool. It was great to see.”
After a successful collegiate career, Keith Wright spent a couple of seasons in Europe. His journey continued in Sweden where he had an opportunity to display his offensive skill set.
He averaged 14.2 points per game on 59.0 percent shooting from the field. The following season, Wright split time with Uppsala Basket of the Swedish Premier League and Czarni Słupsk in Poland.
During his time in Europe, he started to develop his 3-point shot. Wright only took two 3-point shots during his four-year career at Harvard and took a significant higher nuber of 3s than he had before.
While his numbers from 3-point range aren’t eye-popping—35.4 percent (17-of-48) over the course of two seasons—it’s good that Wright added that part to his game.
While Wright added another facet to his game, the most important thing he brings to the team is his defensive presence.
“At the next level, I’m going to be a defensive player. I’m going to come in and do the dirty work. The way that I play it’s whatever the role the coach and the team wants me to have, so overseas the ball was in my hands more offensively so I was able to score more,” Wright said. “I’m a defender energy guy, rebounder here. And when I do get touches, the coaches have confidence in me to make moves, but my first thought isn’t scoring, so it’s just the role that I have.”
After two seasons in Europe, Keith Wright’s biggest takeaway from his journey overseas was figuring out he was a good player.
“I really just found myself as a professional. Gaining confidence. Just figuring out that I’m actually a good player; playing against other professional athletes,” Wright said. “Being out in the world on my own— really on my own. Family is all the way in another country, so learning to live in different cultures. It was great.”
In 2014, Wright was drafted by the Austin Spurs with the No. 8 pick in the third round of the NBA D-League Draft. He spent a year-and-a-half in Austin before getting traded to the Westchester Knicks for Wesley Saunders, a former teammate at Harvard.
By joining the Knicks, he was reunited with Westchester head coach Mike Miller, who was an assistant coach in Austin during Wright’s rookie season.
By playing under Miller, the Knicks forward received an extra boost of confidence when he was traded to Westchester.
“Coach Mike Miller was my assistant coach in Austin my first year, so when I got traded here at the end of last season he just told me just do what I do,” Wright said. “That was all the confidence I needed from the coach. When the coach has confidence in you, it’s easy to play as a player.”
Along with reuniting with a former coach in Mike Miller, Keith Wright had the opportunity to play for a general manager who is iconic in the New York area.
During his time in Westchester, Wright had the chance to learn from Allan Houston.
“Me and Allan [Houston] have some talks every time we see each other. It can range from five minutes to 15 minutes. Just picking his brain. He knows the grind as a player,” Wright said. “He knows the grind of a long season and he knows it’s tougher for us D-League players. So the biggest takeaway that I have from Allan and his lessons are no excuses. Don’t have any excuses.”
“As elementary as it sounds, be professional. It gets tough,” Wright continued. “It’s easy to get in a dark place here, especially whenever we’re in a rut like we are in now where we’ve lost four of our last five. It’s easy to enter a dark place, so if you’re professional and continue to be positive, it’s easy to get ourselves out of it; out of that dark place.”
As a returning player, Keith Wright has improved his game. While he isn’t relied on to be a scorer, Wright can effective on offense. Through the first 21 games of the season, he has recorded more double-doubles (3) this season than last season (2).
The Harvard product has had many memorable Vine moments that have propelled the Knicks to victories this season. On a Nov. 20, 2016 meeting against the Santa Cruz Warriors, Damien Inglis went around Dennis Clifford for the lay in, which turned out to be the game-winning basket.
On the next possession, Wright made a huge defensive stop by denying Phil Pressey at the rim.
— NBA D-League (@nbadleague) November 30, 2016
About three weeks later, the Knicks met the Raptors 905. In a tough battle on the road, Westchester had the opportunity to leave Ontario, Canada with their ninth win of the season.
Inglis made a baseline drive to the basket, but missed the lay-in. With one second left on the clock, Wright tipped it in and gave Westchester the victory.
“I needed to make up for the two missed free throws I had prior to that, so we had the time out,” Wright said. “Jaylen Bond was like, you know ‘if we get those two free throws, hit the glass, hit the glass’ and I was like, ‘for sure.’ And it just so happens that the ball just found it’s way in my vicinity and I was able to get a hand on it, so it was great.”
With the NBA D-League Showcase nearing, it will be a great opportunity for Keith Wright to display his talents and skill set. He’s coming off one of his best games of the season and could be building momentum heading into the event.
His rebounding and defensive presence haven’t gone unnoticed in Westchester. Keith Wright has been a solid contributor for the Knicks since he arrived in Westchester in February of 2016.
Along with that, Wright will be a player to watch during the NBA D-League Showcase.
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