ICC's Richardson says yes to scholarship offer from Hogs
With six national championships and 27 appearances in 24 years of the Final Four to its credit, there's little debate that the Southeastern Conference is the pinnacle of NCAA Women's College Basketball.
And there also is little doubt that Arkansas Razorback Head Coach Houston Nutt occupies a lofty perch when it concerns the powers of motivational speaking.
Singularly, these two things are impressive. Put together they are an irresistible force. Especially when it comes time to choose a college to attend.
Just ask Izard County Consolidated's Brittney Richardson.
With her sights set on the opportunity to compete in the SEC, and after a rousing session of encouragement from the head football Hog, the 16-year-old Richardson orally committed to play basketball at the University of Arkansas June 28.
"It feels great. I'm really excited," said Richardson, a 6-0 standout for the ICC Lady Cougars who will begin her junior year at the Brockwell school in August.
After attending the Lady Razorback Elite Camp at Fayetteville with teammate Sammi Fowler during the third week in June, Lady 'Back Head Coach Susie Gardner offered Richardson a scholarship.
"Camp was great. There was a lot of talent there," Richardson said. "I knew a lot of the girls from AAU, and the Lady Razorback coaching staff was there helping us. They were great, and the competition was pretty tough."
But it was an un-official visit to the campus with her family June 27 that sealed the deal for the All-Conference and All-Regional Richardson.
"It was about five hours long," Richardson said of her family's visit to the UofA campus. "We went to the cafeteria and ate lunch and took a tour of the facilities. But the big thing was getting to meet coach Houston Nutt. We talked to him for about 30 minutes. It was great. I didn't expect to see the football coach."
Not only did Richardson, along with her mother Sherry, father Mike and brother Dane, get to talk to Nutt, they got to visit in his office.
"That was really a big deal," said Mike Richardson. "For him to take time out of his day to talk to us, that was something else."
"He was really encouraging me, without any pressure, to go to school there," said Richardson. "He talked a lot about basketball to us. He knows a thing or two about that sport as well as football. He said this could be a big change for the school. He said they need someone who can shoot the ball well."
And shooting the ball well was definitely something the athletic Richardson excelled at as a sophomore starter for the Lady Cougars.
Richardson averaged 21 points, seven boards, 2.5 assists, two steals and two blocks, while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 77 percent from the charity stripe a game, helping ICC to a 29-win season last year, but it might have been the final two games of the Lady Cougars' season in which Richardson demonstrated just how explosive she could be.
Richardson dropped in an eye-popping 37 points against White County Central in the opening game of the Class AA Region 3 Tournament in Midland and followed that up with a 22-point outing versus Newark in the second round, giving her 59 points for ICC's two-game stay in the regional, a trip that ended one game shy of a berth in the state tournament.
After playing every position on the floor last season for the Lady Cougs, Richardson proved she could handle the heat against some of the top players in the state at the Elite Camp by knocking in shots from all over the court and taking the ball hard to the hoop. Richardson also showed the Lady 'Back staff she had hops to spare by flashing her ability to grab the rim during camp.
The camp proved to be a goldmine for Gardner, who also got a commitment from Fort Smith Northside point guard Shanita Arnold right after the camp ended. Arnold joins Richardson to verbally commit before her junior season gets under way next fall.
The University of Arkansas was not the only big-time program to have Richardson on its radar.
"I got about 25 letters from different schools," Richardson said. "Arkansas State, Georgia, Louisiana Tech, OSU, Pepperdine and SMU were some of the bigger ones."
Not only did Arkansas State send Richardson a letter, Lady Indian Head Coach Brian Boyer also extended a scholarship offer to Richardson.
Richardson's two main suitors squared off late last season in what was probably the most anticipated Women's Division I college basketball ever in the state of Arkansas, with ASU knocking off Gardner's Lady 'Backs 98-84 in the second round of the WNIT before a record 10,892 fans at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
"I listened to it on the radio," said Richardson. "It was a good thing for ASU, but now I think it's Arkansas' turn. They're fixing to turn it on."
Projected as a 2-guard at the collegiate level, the sweet-shooting Richardson was impressed with the way the Lady Razorback coaching staff operates.
"The coaching staff at Arkansas is really nice," she said. "I really like the coaches. And the SEC Conference, that's been my dream to play in the SEC. And the facilities there are great at Arkansas. Their weight room is probably the top one in the nation. It's really nice."
And Richardson plans to spend plenty of time hitting the weights between now and the time so arrives on the University of Arkansas campus to suit up for the Lady Hogs.
"That's one of my individual goals for the upcoming season," said Richardson, who can turn her oral commitment into a letter of intent by signing in November of 2006. "I'm going to start lifting weights and working on conditioning, along with my defense."
By stating her intentions to become a Lady Razorback, Richardson figures she should have one less thing to concentrate on during her final two years at Izard County Consolidated.
"I can focus on school and high school basketball now," she said. "I knew I wanted to commit early so I could get it off my back, but I didn't think it would be the Razorbacks. As it came down to two schools, it was definitely ASU and the Razorbacks. I wanted to stay in state so my parents could see me play."
With her college choice in the rearview mirror, Richardson now has her sights on helping the Lady Cougars top last year's finish in the second round of the regional tournament.
"We want to go as far as we can in the state tournament this year, and also win a couple of regular-season tournaments," she said. "We want to get off to a good start at the beginning of the year."
As if being asked to join the Lady Razorbacks was not enough, Richardson will also take part in the Junior Olympics in late July in New Orleans, teaming with nine other top-flight players.
The road to success is one that is usually not traveled alone, and Richardson's path to Fayetteville is no exception.
"I want to thank my parents and my brother," she said. "They're there for me all the time. And coach Harmon, coach Fowler, superintendent Fred Walker and my best friends Brittney Bailey and Sammi Fowler, along with all my teammates, I'd like to thank for helping me get here."