Kijani Wright Q&A

Updated: Jun 11

Courtesy of Windward School

The 2022 high school class has some impressive depth, with Kijani Wright landing near the top of the pack. The rising junior has formed an impressive duo with fellow 2022 Dylan Andrews at Windward School (CA), with the entire Pac-12 seeming to be working for their services. On top of Power-5 schools on the west coast, Wright holds offers from Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt, among others. At nearly 6’9” and 220 pounds, Wright has been part of a lot of winning at the high school level thus far and was also part of the gold medal-winning USA team at the U16 FIBA Americas, last June.

What immediately stands out about Wright is his impressive frame, as he appears to be physically prepared to play in college right now. He has some post polish, with an ambidextrous finishing ability, yet he’s also able to face-up for the long range shot or attack a close out. With his ability to put the ball on the floor, he also is adept at finding teammates on the perimeter and is an intuitive offensive rebounder. Defensively, while he is most comfortable defending the post, he’s also flashed some agility which allows him to switch out on the perimeter in a pinch.

Playing on the adidas circuit for Compton Magic, Wright has made consistent strides in his game over the last few years as he has grown into his body and developed his skillset. While center seems to be his position of comfort at this point, he projects as a combination big in college and shows many early signs of fitting well into a team setting. His recruitment will only continue to heat up as he has been hovering near the top of the national rankings for the class of 2022 for quite some time. With his introspective approach, Wright seems to be watching very relevant players and taking the right steps in his training towards his goal of playing professional basketball.

In this interview, Wright talks about his basketball roots, what he has been working on during the current COVID-19 pandemic, a glimpse at his training regimen, his experience with both Compton Magic and USA Basketball, plus much more.

For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Kijani Wright, from Los Angeles, California:

Pro Insight: Talk about your background and your story.

KW: Well I’m an LA kid so I’ve always been in Southern California. I grew up here. I guess basketball has always been there — ever since I was little I wanted to get on the blacktop. Always wanted to play with the older teenagers at the Boys and Girls Club. Always wanted to play and get in runs. I feel like I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder and just wanted to compete. I’ve always been a competitor so being able to play basketball is a way of expressing myself.

PI: What’s your family background?

KW: I have one brother and I live with my mom and my brother right now.

PI: Do any of your siblings or family play sports?

KW: My mom doesn’t play sports. My brother used to run track, but I’m the only one who plays basketball in the family. My dad used to play ball in high school, but he also stopped so I’m the only one left.

PI: Any extended family members play sports collegiately or professionally?

KW: No, not that I know of.

PI: Do you or did you play any other sports?

KW: This is all with the Boys and Girls Club that I went to, but I played soccer and I tried a little baseball. Played some flag football in middle school. I also played volleyball. I played volleyball at Windward and that’s pretty much about it. I played volleyball in middle school, but stopped my freshman year. I was the middle hitter and blocker — I would be there to block the ball when it was going over the net, that was my role. Volleyball did help my athleticism when I wasn’t playing basketball, it definitely helped my vert.

PI: When did you transition over to full time basketball?

KW: Ever since I can remember, I don’t really have a story where my dad put the ball in my hands, but I guess in early elementary school I started playing basketball and I fell in love with it. I don’t really have a story about how basketball came to me, but it’s always been there and I just fell in love with it.

PI: What made you fall in love with basketball?

KW: Everything, just competing...being able to play against another opponent and wanting to win, because I’m a huge competitor that’s been my drive when I’m playing. Ever since I started loving the game I’ve kept that winning attitude and competitiveness.

PI: For those who aren’t super familiar with your game, what are some of your greatest strengths?

KW: I grew up as a center being pretty tall so I’d always be in the low post, but now I can stretch out to the 3 or 4. I play inside and out, so I’d say back to the basket, but also facing up and the mid-post is kind of my strength.

PI: What about some things you still need to work on?

KW: Definitely getting low, getting low when I’m dribbling the ball. Definitely ball-handling and then consistently shooting the ball — having a consistent stroke. Mid-range, three-pointers, extending my range so that’s always going to be something I need to improve on.

PI: From what Pro Insight has seen, you’re also a pretty underrated passer — where do some of those instincts come from?

KW: Yeah I don’t even know where that came from, but I enjoy passing the ball and facilitating. I see LeBron and he’s throwing the ball full court; Kevin Love throwing the ball full court. I didn’t really realize that I was doing the exact same thing — if I saw an open man I’d just pass it to him. The high-low pass from the high post is something I did last year, as well. I love passing the ball and facilitating for my teammates.

PI: With things shut down due to COVID-19, what are you doing to stay ready?

KW: Definitely going to the gym...before I’d just do home workouts, but our basketball team at Windward started doing team zoom workouts. Then things started opening up a bit so I started going to the gym. I’ve just been working out with my trainer, shooting, ball-handling, strength training, and staying consistent with the workouts and trying to stay ready for when things officially open up.

PI: Who is your trainer?

KW: Pro's Vision with Darren Collison, Sean Marshall, and Calvin Mitchell. The three trainers with Pro's Vision train me down in San Clemente. Then I also have a Compton Magic coach, coach Douglas Joseph who is also training me, making sure I’m right for the next level.

PI: Which aspects of your game do you spend the majority of your time working on?

KW: Ball handling and shooting. Staying low with the ball. Making sure I can guard 3-through-5, just working up to make sure I can guard new positions and just expanding my game.

PI: What’s your weekly training schedule?

KW: It’s five to six days per week, I go around 2:30 P.M., work out and try and get it in. Sometimes I have two workouts or one workout, but just try and get the most in with my trainers.

PI: What are your current measurements?

KW: I believe I have a 6’10-11” wingspan. I’m around 215 pounds, and I’m around 6’8.5-9” tall.

PI: Where does your physical physique come from?

KW: I guess just a combination of my mom and my dad, maybe other parts of the family, but I do see little parts of my mom [in me] and her legs, we have the same legs. My dad, we have similar back and arm structures, so it’s really just a combination between both parents.

PI: Are they tall as well?

KW: I’m the tallest I think in my family that I know mom, she's like 5’6” and my dad is 6’3-4”. My brother is 6’1”, so I’m just the tallest one in my family.

PI: Is your physical physique natural or have you been lifting weights?

KW: I actually don’t lift weights, it’s all from body weight. I haven’t really bulked up, because as basketball players you don’t really want to be bulky, you want to be able to move around and be versatile. It’s really been all natural, just body weight and then possibly just starting to increase the weight. My friends are surprised and they’re like, “man you’re not lifting weights?” and I’m like “I can lift my bodyweight, I don’t need to start lifting weights” because there’s a correct way to lift weight. My trainer started me out lifting my body weight and once I’m accustomed to that then maybe we can up the weight on that. I do still want to grow some more, so making sure I get enough sleep and not lifting too much. That’s also going to be key if I’m going to continue to grow.

PI: What is your regimen in terms of diet and taking care of your body?

KW: I do eat pretty healthy, my mom takes care of everything. I always have rice or chicken or broccoli. Always having some sort of kale or salad or spinach to go with my meals. I’m not really eating candy or soda. I do love strawberry lemonade, that’s for sure — strawberry lemonade is a go-to. My diet is pretty healthy — not too strict — but healthy.

PI: Do you train with any other players?

KW: Solo for now, just to stay as safe as possible, but I have been doing a little bit of one’s or workouts with the Mobleys, Anthony Brown. I did work out with Klay Thompson a little bit, but just trying to stay safe. Not really going to any 5-on-5’s or any open runs. I’m just trying to stay safe and better myself.

PI: As time goes on and your opponents become more physically mature, what’s going to be your differentiator?

KW: I think it’s focusing on the smallest things. That could be stretching more, that’s a must. As other guys are building and catching up, I’ve got to focus on the little things. Like maybe I have some tension with a certain area of my body and I can improve that. So definitely focusing on the little things as guys start to move up.

PI: Who are some of the toughest players you’ve ever had to guard?

KW: At Pangos All-American Camp I had to guard Cade Cunningham. Precious [Achiuwa], I’ve had to guard him. There are so many players.

PI: What made those guys tough?

KW: Well they’re just physical, they’re really physical. They’re great competitors. When I went to that camp I was a freshman and they were juniors or seniors. So me competing against them, maybe I get a block on them and they figure out I’m a freshman, they’re going to compete even harder. And I’m going to compete the hardest I can, but us going at it, it’s tough when I have that chip on my shoulder. I do want to mention Big O [Onyeka Okongwu], he’s pretty big and hard to guard.

PI: Who do you think the best players are in your area? SoCal?

KW: Dylan Andrews on my team is pretty good, he’s definitely one of the top players in my area. Another guy, I forget his name, he’s a top player in the 2021 class and goes to Cal Poly [Peyton Watson].

PI: Rank the best five bigs in the 2022 class.

KW: Jalen Duren is a top big. Jabari Smith, he’s not really a big, he’s more of a forward, but he’s also a really good player. I’m definitely confident going at them toe-to-toe. I’ve been through it going toe-to-toe with them, tryouts for the USA team in Florida, so I definitely want to go against them for sure.

PI: Why do you wear #33? Is there a story behind that?

KW: One of my other trainers is super big into numerology and he said numbers 33, 1, or 21 are huge numbers to wear. I chose #33. I know a few players who wore #33, Scottie Pippen wore #33. So I guess after I figured that out I was like “of course, let me wear that number as well,” but there’s really no huge backstory behind why I wear it.

PI: Walk us through this past high school season.

KW: It was a great high school season. There were some ups and downs, but we won CIF and we really had to come together as a team. There were a lot of sacrifices that had to be made, but we had a really good team this year. We had Devin Tillis going to UNLV and one of our other bigs, Marcus Joseph. I think this is probably one of the best teams at Windward, so us all coming together and learning to work and get this season right for that CIF was pretty amazing.

PI: What’s it like playing with Dylan Andrews?

KW: His game is like a downhill guy...he’s going to go at anybody, challenge them and talk trash. He does that in practice, too — go after and talk trash with anybody. He’s a relentless scorer. He’s going to go after everybody and try to get to the cup every time.

PI: What’s your experience been like playing with the Compton Magic?

KW: It was a little weird because I didn’t know what they were all about at first, but as I’ve played with them throughout the years they really put me on a stage where I grow and get seen by college coaches. Going up against top guys from different classes around the world. They really just helped me expand my game and take me to places I never thought I’d go so I really give it up to them. They gave me a further step to reaching my goal.

PI: What have you learned from Etop Udo-Ema?

KW: He’s a great mentor. Showing us about the brand, the business. Great communicator on the court, fun guy to talk to and chill guy to get to know.

PI: Who are some of the most talented players you’ve enjoyed playing with or against?

KW: Definitely I love going up against Evan Mobley in practices...Big O, as well. I love playing with Dylan Andrews, love playing with Benny Gealer, I love playing Devin Tillis, Malik Thomas, Caleb Houstan. I loved the team I played with in 17U...that was a really good team I got a chance to play with.

PI: When do you feel like things really started to round a corner for you as a player?

KW: I’m just taking it step by step — that’s the ultimate goal, to stay in the league [NBA] and play in the league as long as possible. But it’s one step at a time, not rushing the process. Making sure that I’m going at my pace, but I think I’ve always realized that I have the ability to get and play in the league as long as I have that mentality.

PI: What are your short and long term goals as a basketball player?

KW: Definitely to defend that CIF title. I don’t really have any individual goals, but I definitely want to make my teammates the best players they can be and improve their games. In college, I want to play in the NCAA [Tournament] and win a championship. There’s not really any individual goals, just playing ball.

PI: How about as a person?

KW: When I go to college I want to get into that real estate business, being that business man off the court is a goal that I see in myself. I look up to LeBron as a businessman, so I definitely want to be in that category.

PI: What attracts you to real estate?

KW: My grandma — once I found out she owned places and buildings and she’s getting paid I was like, “I can do that, too,” and I’ve always been inspired to do that. I said to my mom and coaches that when I do have that opportunity to go out and buy something, I do want to invest in something like Wingstop, I love Wingstop. I don’t know if those would be true goals, but those are just some things off the top of my head.

PI: Talk about your experience with USA Basketball.

KW: When I went with them the first time I didn’t know what to expect. I knew going up against top players would be something I’d do, but they’re a really competitive camp to go to. I’m really honored to get invited and to get to go to that camp many times and win a gold medal. But just learning the little things, teaching points from the coaches and learning how to better myself, to play my position, and my role.

PI: Who all have you roomed with?

KW: I’ve roomed with Nathan Bittle, Adrian Griffin — that dude is pretty funny, pretty quiet guy but also pretty funny — I roomed with Jalen Duren, Richard Issacs, and Amari Bailey, those are some really good dudes. I don’t really have a favorite room, I kind of kept to myself, so there’s no roommate that I had more fun with, I guess. I really kept to myself when I room with these dudes.

PI: Describe representing the USA and winning the gold medal at the FIBA U16 Americas Championship.

KW: I actually at the time I didn’t realize how special it was to represent your country and to go up against the other countries we played against and to have a special moment with my teammates that I’ll probably remember for a lifetime. Those are my brothers with the USA team. Being able to compete against all the teams we faced and do it with all of my brothers on that team with the coaches I had was a pretty special honor and opportunity I was given to play with those guys.

PI: Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or extrovert?

KW: More of an introvert, I guess. I don’t know. I change up sometimes, but I do keep to myself. I’m not really much of a person who just throws himself out there. I do like to be on my own time and kind of hang out by myself. If I really don’t really have a reason to go out then I’m fine just staying at home on my own time. I love watching cooking shows, so if I have the choice to have my own time or go out then I’m definitely going to stick with my own time and do what I love which is watch cooking shows, maybe play video games with friends, or hang out with the family.

PI: What’s the update with your recruitment?

KW: I love all of my offers, but Michigan State has reached out, USC, Arkansas, LMU, Arizona State, Oregon State — Arizona also, they’re recruiting me pretty hard right now.