In sports, the saying goes, “Defense wins championships.” In basketball, one of the best facets of a great defense is a defensive anchor down in the paint. Freshman Kiara Ginwright is the Gators’ defensive enforcer down low, and she is on pace to shatter the school record for most blocked shots in a season.
Ginwright has 69 blocks on the season. She averages four blocked shots per game, the best in the nation for Division II, which puts her on pace to finish the season with 109 blocks. The SF State record is currently held by Trina Easly, who had 77 blocks during the ’84-’85 season. Ginwright ranks third in school history, and there are still 10 games left to play.
Ginwright towers over her competition at 6 feet 5 inches tall, with a massive wingspan. She can swat the ball from the arc of the shot or smother the ball away from her opponent with her long reach.
“Basically, for blocking shots, if they put it straight up I try to block it with my left hand because I’m a left-handed shot blocker,” Ginwright said. “If they try to do anything tricky, and try to go around me, I usually use my right. I’m basically just trying to get to the side where they are shooting.”
Ginwright said she started playing basketball in seventh grade at the urging of her parents, who could see her natural abilities as a basketball player from a young age. She also played basketball in high school, for Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California.
“I’m really tall because of my parents,” Ginwright said with a smile. “I have them to thank for that. My mom was a cheerleader and my dad never played either. I chose basketball because my parents told me, ‘You are going to be big.’”
Ginwright’s defensive presence on the backend is a reassuring security blanket for the rest of the team, according to guard Brittaney Allison.
“You trust (Ginwright) to block the shot,” Allison said. “You don’t have to worry as much defensive wise. You can throw the ball up and she’ll just knock it away every time.”
Head coach Dennis Cox said he is very grateful to have Ginwright on the team, but sees room for improvement in her game.
“She’s such a prolific shot blocker that she means so much to us defensively,” Cox said. “If we make mistakes on the perimeter, she is such a rim-protector, but there are other parts of her game that she really has to get better at.”
Cox stressed the importance of Ginwright continuing to work on her post-up game, as well as her strength and conditioning.
“We are really happy to have her,” Cox said. “She’s a gem that just needs to be refined. A piece of clay that we can really mold into something incredible if she puts the work in. The biggest thing she has to do this summer is get stronger.”
Ginwright, despite her success, acknowledged that there is a lot of room for her to improve as a player.
“I have a lot to work on,” Ginwright said. “I want to work on mostly my offense – driving, my shot and getting faster – everything so that I can become an all-around player.”
The most blocked shots in a season for Division II women’s basketball is 219, set by LaKisha Phifer in 1996. Ginwright said that as of now, she’s just focused on breaking SF State’s single-season record.
“As a freshman, it would be really great to break the record,” Ginwright said. “I hope I can continue to break more and more records, but for now I think it’s a great accomplishment to be on pace to break the single-season record for SF State.”