Rashad Wright does not have the kind of basketball talent that sneaks up on you.

As soon as you see the 6 ’10” Agawam, Massachusetts native on the court, it is immediately evident that he has a gift.  Maybe that’s why Sportiva Italiana, a team in the National Basketball League of Chile, wasted no time signing him to a contract last week.

“I knew he could play professionally the first time I saw him,” Keene State College Basketball Coach Rob Colbert said. “He’s just got great size, a great body and he can really play.  He has uncanny athleticism for his size.”

Now, things are moving fast for Wright.

He first heard about the opportunity to play in Chile from his agent on September 21, and five days later he was on a plane headed for South America.

“It only took about four or five days until it was official,” Wright said.

Chris Palermo / File photo: Rashad Wright draws the attention of international scouts from various leagues.

Chris Palermo / File photo: Rashad Wright draws the attention of international scouts from various leagues.

“The season starts in late October but there’s training camp and stuff like that soon,” he said.

Teams in the League of Chile, or Chile-Liga Nacional as it is known there, have added international players to round out their rosters in the past.  Although last year’s Sportiva Italiana roster featured no U.S.-born players, most teams in the league have one or two Americans.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a difficult transition for Wright, who averaged 10.7 points to go along with an impressive 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks as a senior at KSC last year.

“Obviously it will be difficult being away from family and friends and being in a strange environment,” Colbert said.

“But the most difficult thing is going to be the level of physical play.”

Former teammate Ryan Martin, no stranger to international play after being signed by a team in the Canadian Basketball League in August, acknowledged the obstacles facing Wright, but said he also sees the opportunities.

“It’s a professional league so it’s definitely going to be a step up and be challenging,” Martin said.

“But it will be great for him because he can get his foot in the door and this will set up more opportunities and hopefully he can keep moving up.”

Wright and Martin have been keeping in touch all summer, and Wright was actually working out for the Canadian Basketball League when he got the call from his agent about the offer from Sportiva Italiana.

Martin admitted it would have been fun to play in the same league as Wright, but is happy for his friend.  It’s clear both players are grateful for their experiences at KSC.

“I do miss being at Keene, but I’m at a point now where I’m trying to move on and pursue my career,” Wright said.

“Obviously I’m thankful for the coaching staff.”

Wright also said he learned how to be a better teammate and leader during his time at KSC.

Now Wright’s career begins in a place he conceded he knows little about.

“The only things I know [about Chile] I’ve learned in the past week or so,” Wright said.

He will be battling bigger, more mature players in a longer season and no one is pretending the transition will be easy.

Wright will need to improve his endurance, his free throw shooting and bulk up if he wants to excel in the league.

But the people closest to him know his rare abilities and understand what he’s capable of.

“When Rashad plays with energy he’s the best big man in division three,” Martin said.  “He’s just got so much potential and upside.”

Coach Colbert seemed to agree.

“I think the sky is the limit for Rashad,” Colbert said.

“He’s worked really hard since he’s been home.  I don’t think he was ready to leave the game.”

Thanks to Sportiva Italiana, now he won’t have to.


Zach Winn can be contacted at  zwinn@keene-equinox.com

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