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Westchester Way: Keith Wright

In the first edition of Westchester Way, Ridiculous Upside catches up with former Westchester Knicks forward Keith Wright on his tenure with the team and his career after Westchester.

David Dow/NBA

In the first edition of “Westchester Way,” Ridiculous Upside will look back at Keith Wright’s time in Westchester and his post-G League career. Wright was a part of the franchise’s first playoff squad and earned the Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award for the 2016-17 season. After suiting up in 64 games— 5th most in franchise history— Wright played in the Philippines, Greece, and participated in The Basketball Tournament in 2018.

A change in scenery was all Keith Wright needed and the rest is history. Wright started out the 2015-16 season in the Lone Star State and finished it in the Big Apple. He was apart of the Westchester Knicks’ 28-win team that made the franchise’s first appearance in the postseason. He has played in the fifth most games in team history and has experienced great success with the team and played a significant role in the growth of a new franchise.

“I was just happy to get out of a situation in Austin where I just wasn’t being used,” Keith Wright said. “I wasn’t playing and went to a new team with a coach (Mike Miller) that I had experience with, so there was some familiarity there. The main thing that was on my mind was just having an opportunity to play and actually go out and find my joy again. Westchester gave me that opportunity. They really just let me play and allowed me to play within the system. They trusted me with a lot of responsibility on the floor and off the court, as well with holding the team together and helping that move forward.”

Making history is not foreign to the veteran forward. Along with Westchester, Keith Wright was part of the Harvard Crimson’s first Ivy League Championship in program history. On February 23, 2016, the Dub Knicks acquired Wright and Ra’Shad James. The two discussed being the spark plug for the 2015-16 squad as the team made a push towards the postseason.

“Rarely in life do you get an opportunity to make history,” Wright said. “I remember having a conversation with him while we were going through our physicals and being like we could be this spark plug that turns this whole thing around. We were like, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ I’ve been able to do it twice now in my career with not only Westchester, but with Harvard as well. That’s something that I hold very high and I cherish. Making history with Westchester is right up there as well.”

It’s the final game of the 2016-17 season and Keith Wright is warming up for his last game at the Westchester County Center. The Knicks were set to take on the Long Island Nets. While it was his last game in a Westchester uniform, the next chapter in his career was more than eight thousand miles away in the Philippines.

“I found about it the morning of the last game against the Long Island Nets,” Wright said. “The coaches knew about it and our GM (Allan Houston) knew about it. They were just like, ‘we only have like seven guys’ and ‘we need you to play, but make sure that you’re playing like 20-25 minutes’ and ‘we obviously don’t want you to get hurt, so that jeopardizes your opportunity to go over and play in the Philippines and make some money’. They helped me with that transition a lot and it was real easy.”

When the buzzer sounded for the final time at the Westchester County Center, Keith Wright’s time as a Westchester Knick came to an end. His mark was made and his name will be inked in the team’s history. Wright was awarded the Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award, which is given to the player who represents the ideals of character and conduct on and off the court.

“It’s nice to have recognition for the work I did in the community,” Wright said. “I’ve always said that my career is bigger than basketball. I play just to be able to have a platform to make a difference. However big I can get that platform then that’s the goal. If I can make a difference in one kid’s life, I’ve done my job. That’s all it is; just being selfless. Just giving back and it was an honor to be recognized not only by my teammates, but players throughout the league.”

Keith Wright detailed how Ray McCallum approached him and gave him a special congratulations on winning an award that he didn’t know he was nominated for. Wright and McCallum development a relationship when the latter was assigned to Austin Spurs during the 2015-16 season.

“I remember one of those last games we were playing the Grand Rapids Drive and Ray McCallum came up was like, ‘hey man, I voted for you and congrats on winning the award.’ I didn’t even know I was nominated for it at that point. Then for him to say he voted for me and to follow that up with congrats on it, as in he knew I was going to win the award was awesome.”

Wright added that he formed relationships with many people in the Westchester Knicks’ organization, including Athletic Trainer Bandele Talib and the Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Atkinson. He speaks with Talib often and has recently spoke to Atkinson. Wright was able to form great bonds with people he considers lifelong friends.

Four days after his final G League game, Keith Wright was in the Philliphines and was in the starting line-up for Mahindra Floodbuster (now Columbian Dyip). Based off his previous experiences, he was prepared for his new team and remained highly productive upon arrival. Wright recorded 17 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in his debut. He went onto average 19.6 points and 15.3 rebounds per game on 45.7 percent shooting from the field in seven games.

For the six-year veteran, the transition wasn’t difficult. Wright owed the credit to Mike Atkinson, who helped him in Westchester, and Bandele Talib. While it was a new country, he was more prepared than ever. Wright described his experience in the Philippines as a blessing.

He joined Mahindra Floodbuster in the middle of their season and spent a short time in the Philippines. Four months later, Keith Wright’s entered a new chapter in his career. He started his sixth season in Rhodes, Greece— nearly five thousand miles away from the country’s capital, Athens. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 28 games with Kolossos Rodou BC.

After wrapping up his season in Greece, Keith Wright returned to the states. Unlike the previous three summers— he was in Hong Kong in 2015, China in 2016 and Philippines in 2017— Wright’s calendar was open. Wright received a call from his agent Michael Chamblain, who is friends with Ray Chang, the General Manager of Talladega Knights in The Basketball Tournament. Chang liked Wright’s game through film he saw and felt like he could contribute to the team. The Harvard product detailed his expectations heading into the summer tournament and what he realized about the team during their first game.

“I didn’t have any expectations at all,” Wright said. “I was asked to play on a team with a bunch of guys from the Philly-New Jersey area, so these guys basically grew up together grew up playing. When I got there during that first game, I realized we are really good team and I really do fit in well. I just told them, I’m not looking to get a bunch of touches or get a bunch of minutes. I’m a plug and play guy. I’m going to fill a role. That’s what I did and we really played well.”

Talladega Knights were considered underdogs as soon as the tournament tipped off. While that word was associated with the team, the players didn’t look at themselves as underdogs. Team chemistry, which was preached by Chang, helped push the No. 15 seed to a 20-point win over No. 2 Hbc Sicklerville and a 17-point victory over No. 7 Team Arkansas. Talladega Knights became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Super 16.

“When your basketball players, we’re all hoopers at the end of the day and I think that’s what helped us win against teams that I guess thought they should have beaten us,” Wright said. “We never really thought of ourselves as underdogs. Once we did realize our seeding, we felt slighted in a sense like we’re better than this 15 seed.”

The next chapter in Keith Wright’s professional career has yet to be written. He has given thoughts about writing a book. His goal in writing a book would give players a preview on what to expect when they head abroad and used his time in Greece as an example.

“With Greece for example, the crisis that they’re in; capital control with your money and getting it out,” Wright said. “Getting out of the country and getting paid on time over there in Europe. That’s a really big issue. I know players who are over there playing and haven’t been paid for three months, but they have to play because they don’t have numbers to get another offer the following season or to get bought out that season.”

“It’s tough that we really don’t have a players union overseas,” Wright continued. “How do you form one when there’s so much turnover of players? With all that turnover, how can you form a union to make things better for players so that we get paid on time and that our living conditions are up to par?”

Keith Wright is entering his seventh season with optimism, but currently doesn’t have plans for the season. There were some offers on the table, but those offers fell through. Even with that, Wright’s career has been a dream since he has been able to play the game he loves and has experienced countless moments.

“It’s all a dream,” Wright said. “Growing up, I never thought I’d be in the position that I am now and that I’d have the experiences that I have already. Sweden was probably the best place I’ve been as far as aboard goes, so just experiencing different cultures is one thing. Then playing the game that I love and getting paid to do it has just been extremely rewarding. Time there just all molded me into the player and the person that I am today and I’m pretty happy with who I am today, so I’m just grateful to have those experiences.”