NASHVILLE, Tenn. – “No one really understands what people in the military do day-in and day-out,” said Shereka Wright, Vanderbilt associate head coach. “Nobody understands fighting for your freedom and protecting you.”
Wright is the daughter of Walter and Mary Wright. More than that, though, she is the daughter of an Army veteran; her father Walter served as an E9 (Command Sergeant Major) for 22 years.Wright’s father, Walter Wright.
On Thursday, Vanderbilt women’s basketball hosts its annual Salute to Service game against Ole Miss (7 p.m. CT SEC Network+). Ahead of the Salute to Service initiative, Wright opened up about her experience as a military brat, which took her across the globe.
Wright was born in Fort Riley, Kansas before moving to Germany where her family lived for seven years. After the stint, she came back the states and lived in Oklahoma for six years before finishing up middle and high school in Fort Hood, Texas.
“The most interesting place I lived was Germany,” Wright said. “Just living internationally that long, even though I was younger, I vividly remember it and not living on base. Our middle school and high school were on base across the street from our elementary school and my mom coached basketball at the YMCA down the street. I always thought it was really cool that we were all right there in one area.”
As a young girl who would often wear a little red coat, Wright was often the responsibility of her late brother, Antwon. He would make sure she got home after school — until the day he forgot her.
“All the busses would line up and we had to get on either bus eight or bus nine,” Wright recalled. “if you got on the wrong bus it took you the wrong way. We were always the last stop and my brother was responsible for making sure I got off the bus. One day I fell asleep, my brother got off the bus and forgot me. At the end the bus driver told me I had to get off the bus, so I got off and just started walking. Those are the things I remember, because of the travel and just being in Germany.”
Wright also spoke no German.
Wright’s slender frame made her an unorthodox basketball star, but she routinely ventured to the YMCA on the weekends. Wright relished the time she spent around the game of basketball.
“I was a little cheerleader so that way I could be a part of my mom’s team,” Wright laughed. “Around five or six years old I started playing with the boys and I picked up on it. It became something I was really good at. I was unorthodox, but really competitive.”
Wright always joked with her father about following in his footsteps in the military and moving up in the ranks..Walter and Mary Wright.
“It was always an option,” Wright said. “I just learned so much from him because he was all about discipline, being a hard worker and was a firm believer that if you work hard good things happen to you. No matter what I did, I was going to work hard.”
Despite being all about discipline and hard work, Wright said she did not grow up in a strict household.
“He allowed us to grow up,” Wright explained. “We had a set of rules but we could make our own decisions. But, with that, we learned that whether you make a good or bad decision there is going to be a consequence.”
Wright’s father retired from the military during her junior year of high school, and the Wright family moved to St. Louis to help out with her grandmother. At the same time, Wright had evolved into one of the top basketball prospects in the country. During her recruitment, Wright wanted to make sure her parents would be able to see her play college basketball.
“Texas was one of my top four schools,” Wright said. “My dad told me that if I went to school in Texas they wouldn’t be able to be there. It was a really big deal for me for them to be able to watch me play. So, I chose Purdue. I have family in Indianapolis and it was only four hours from home.”
Despite opting against the military route, Wright continues to tap into her father’s lessons.
“My dad talks about having a plan and thinking outside the box,” Wright said . “Also, discipline is huge for me. I try to stress working hard, but working smart. Those are the things he instilled in me. But, to have a plan and be able to get the kids to buy into you is what I’ve always tried to do.”
Wright attributes a lot of who she is to her parents and her upbringing.
“The fact that my dad was able to do what he did for 22 years and run a household is amazing,” she stated. “We never wanted for anything. He just got up and worked, we appreciate that. He gave my brother and I every opportunity. It’s amazing and I really appreciate what he has done and am thankful for it.”
The close bond with her parents is something that Wright holds close to her heart and doesn’t take for granted.
“I call my parents every day,” Wright said. “I talk to my dad for a little bit, then talk to my mom. I’m a military brat, but it gave me a chance to be diverse, travel the world and learn new things. In all, the biggest thing for us is family and we have always stuck with that.”