Monica Wright, a rookie guard with the Lynx, was 11 years old when the movie "Love and Basketball" was released in April 2000.

The female star, named Monica Wright by coincidence, marries the young man next door after a tumultuous off-and-on romance. She plays in the WNBA, he reaches the NBA. "Love and Basketball" was No. 2 at the box office its first weekend and brought in more than $27 million total.

The real Monica Wright never liked the movie, though. "Everyone used to make fun of me about it," she said. "When you are in middle school, you are all insecure and you don't want to be made fun of."

Wright has grown up since then. She's a confident, skilled and driven pro basketball player with dreams of attending law school.

For now, her focus is the WNBA. She participated in her first practice Sunday and will start in her first exhibition game Friday when the short-handed Lynx play Chicago at noon at the Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia (St. Paul).

"I am looking forward to seeing where I can fit in and what niches I can take on," said Wright, the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve planned to use Wright as a reserve, but guards Seimone Augustus (benign tumors) Candice Wiggins (knee) both had surgery recently. They are expected to be sidelined through the early part of the season, so Wright's role could be expanded.

The 5-11 Wright played college basketball at Virginia where as a senior she led the Cavaliers in seven different categories, including scoring (23.7 points per game), steals (3.6), rebounds (6.5) and minutes (32.1).

"[At] the No. 2 slot, Monica Wright hands down was the right fit," Reeve said. "When she comes in, she is a player who is going to be instantly involved offensively and certainly impacts plays defensively. She will need very little warm-up time to get the feel of the game, and not many players can do that."

Wright is the first female Cavalier to be named a first-team Associated Press All-America player; she also was named national defensive player of the year.

Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said Wright is strong, physical, multitalented and has impeccable character, which was on display recently.

Wright was at a Connecticut airport, leaving training camp for the U.S. national women's team, when a woman with a baby was having problems in the security line. "[Monica] stays behind with the lady," Ryan said, "opens the baby stroller, helps her with all her stuff. That's Monica Wright."

Many of her values, such as discipline and pursuing excellence, Wright said, came from her father, retired Air Force Maj. Garry Wright.

"It was always me and him at all the basketball tournaments, all the track meets and soccer games," Wright said. "I was his baby girl."

Her father played college football at Lamar; her mother, Lynette, did not have a sports background. "She was the person who [was] always lifting me up saying, 'Good job,'" Wright said. "I would come home mad if we lost and she would always be there to try to cheer me up."

Ryan said Wright is an all-around wonder on and off the court: "She is great on the stop and pop. ... She can play against anybody on the defensive end. ... She always has time for you. ... She will sign autographs until the cows come home."

In her last college game, Wright had 34 points, seven rebounds and six steals in the Cavaliers' 69-67 loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay in an NCAA tournament first-round game.

She must have been especially motivated. "No," Ryan said, "she plays like that all the time, every minute."

In the early reviews, the real Monica Wright is crushing her fictional movie double.