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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Kia Wilridge - Women's Basketball 2012-2016
Ragin' Cajun Women's Basketball: 2012-2016
Points: 1,285 (10.6 average)
Field Goals: 491-1223 (40.1 pct)
Free Throws: 288-462 (62.3 pct)
Wilridge key part of rebuilding quest
By Bruce Brown
When Kia Wilridge arrived at the UL campus, the school's women's basketball program had fallen into disrepair.
New coach Garry Brodhead knew he needed some new blood, players who could lead both on and off the court.
One of those players was Wilridge, who quickly found her place with the Cajuns and played 121 games over the next four seasons, scoring 1,281 points, dishing out 330 assists and nabbing 256 steals.
She led the team in minutes played for three seasons, steals for three years and twice paced the squad in assists.
If you're aiming to rebuild a program from the ground up, it's not a bad idea to include someone who can do a little bit of everything from the backcourt.
And, one who doesn’t need the spotlight to know she'd done her job.
The Cajuns improved from 10-21 the first year, to 14-16 and then to previously uncharted territory with 23-12 and 25-10 campaigns that both resulted in the championship of the WBI Invitational postseason tournament.
“I feel like defense was the strongest part of my game,” Wildrigel said. “Anybody can shoot the basketball, but not too many can guard the ball.”
“Kia was probably the best defensive player I ever had,” Brodhead said. “She was quick, athletic and really had ability to defend. She would help with new people on the team. She was our point guard, yet still led us twice in defensive rebounding.
“With Kia, it was not about her, it was about team. She had the intangibles and was always ready to help others be better players.””
Wilridge came from a winning program at St. Thomas More, winning state titles in 2011 and 2012 after bowing out in the quarterfinals in 2010. That program, plus her focus on all points of the game, made her a good match for a UL program on the rise.
“In high school, we were balanced, offense and defense,” she said. “All season long we worked on the fast break, keeping your hips turned and staying on the ball. I scored more in high school than I did in college,”
She had her moments, though.
One signature moment occurred in the 2016 WBI semifinals against Youngstown State, when Wilridge hit 10-of-16 shots and notched a career-high 22 points.
“Finally I went back to my old ways,” Wilridge said, “and I just kept telling myself to have fun. I stopped thinking about how off my shots had been and I just let it fly,”
The Cajuns led 38-33 at half, and before Youngstown could turn around it was 51-39 wn route to a 69-49 win and a second trip to the finals.
Once there, UL beat Weber State 87-85 in two overtimes. They had topped Siena 52-50 in the 2015 finals.
“She was a high school scorer, and really had a good game,” Brodhead said. “But she developed into a shooter. You always got 100 percent from Kia, and 80 percent would have been enough sometimes. She was always willing to learn.”
That education includied hitting the boards as an undersized rebounder.
“She looks fragile but she's not,” Brodhead said. “You'd see a crowd of people in the lane, then all of a sudden you'd see Kia's head and she was getting a rebound.
“One year, Western Kentucky had an all-American center, about 6 feet tall, and we put Kia on her to front her. She gave that girl all kind of trouble. She was a factor in the game. And we took them right down to the wire.”
Wilridge arrived at UL at the same time as former STM teammate KeKe Veal, in one of the more unusual moves to be found.
“They originally were headed for MoNeese State (to play for Brodhead), then at the end of the semester I got the UL job,” he said. “McNeese didn't want to release them from their commitment to go with me to UL.
“Then I got a call from (Iota star, Cajun commit) Allison Baggett, saying she had changed her mind and wanted to go to McNeese (older twin sisters Ashley and Caitlyn were stars there).
“I told her if she wanted to transfer, that was no problem. It's all about the kids.”
What, then, of Wildridge and Veal? McNeese relented and all three players flourished witth their chosen programs.It was a win-win-win proposition.
Wilridge's four years helped set the stage for a new era in UL women's hoops, as Brodhead has had consistently strong teams from that time. It was special to help the school turn the corner.
“What I'll miss most is the adrenalin,” Wildridge said. “Your heart really gets beating on game days. It was fast-paced for much of the game, and you could feel the energy of the crowd.
“I haven't been able to keep up with the team much, but I did develop relationships with some of my teammates.”
Wilridge was always drawn to medicine, and she is currently a nurse working in Baton Rouge. That adrenalin is now channeled into helping others.
Which, come to think of it, is what she did for four years with the Ragin' Cajun women's basketball program.
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Click here for Kia Wilridge's Athletic Network profile.
Click here for the 2015-16 Women's Basketball Photo Gallery.
Click here for the 2014-15 Women's Basketball Photo Gallery.
Click here for the 2012-13 Women's Basketball Photo Gallery.
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Click here for the 2007-present annual/chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
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