Richardson's big day finally here
Some things just go together naturally.
Like boats and water.
Peanut butter and jelly.
Brittney Richardson and a basketball.
"I remember when she was just a little-bitty kid about this (knee) high," said Mike Richardson, Brittney's father. "She took a basketball and dribbled it between her legs. I turned around and said, 'Did she just do that?' From that day forward she's always had a ball in her hands."
Those years of dribbling a basketball inside the house, outside on the patio and in countless gyms all over the state, have paid big-time dividends for the 5-11 small forward Richardson, who signed a letter of intent to play basketball for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks and coach Susie Gardner next season. Richardson signed her letter at The Hanger on the campus of Mountain Home High School Nov. 10 during the NCAA's early signing period. Athletes who are seniors in high school are allowed to sign in the fall from Nov. 8-15.
Richardson, from Salem, transferred to play her senior season of high school hoops at Mountain Home, after spending the past two years at Izard County Consolidated where she helped the Lady Cougars to a 27-win season last year, including a perfect 12-0 in the 2AA-North Conference. ICC also won the NEA Tournament in Richardson's junior season, a year in which she averaged 27.1 points per game while grabbing 8.4 rebounds an outing.
After competing in the Lady Razorbacks' Elite Camp in the summer after her sophomore year at ICC, the All-State, All-Region and All-Conference Richardson caught the eye of Gardner and her coaching staff.
"They had watched her some in AAU," Mike Richardson said. "And they invited her to the Elite Camp they had at the end of her sophomore year. During that Elite Camp, she would call home -- because we weren't able to be there with her -- and she was just really excited and enjoyed it. They (University of Arkansas) offered her a scholarship at the end of that camp, and we went for a visit shortly thereafter. She committed within a week. She loved it, and we were very supportive of her decision and let her make that decision."
In addition to getting a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference, the premiere conference in women's college basketball, the coaching staff at the University of Arkansas also played a major role in landing Richardson, who also sports a 4.0 GPA.
"The coaches would have been my final decision," she said. "I really like the coaches. I can talk to them anytime I want. They understand everything. I feel they're building their program to compete in the NCAA tournament, and I want to be able to do that. I'm really excited this day is finally here. Now I can concentrate on my senior season at Mountain Home. I've been waiting for this day for a long time."
Richardson is one part of a five-pronged recruiting class for Gardner that ranks as one of the best-ever for the Lady Backs.
And the fact that Richardson has played with most of the players in that class should pay off immediately for the Lady Razorbacks next year.
Players like two-time Arkansas Class AAA MVP Whitney Zachariason (6-2) from Central Arkansas Christian, Shanita Arnold (5-6) from powerhouse Fort Smith Northside, Ashlea Williams (6-2) from Springfield, Mo., Hillcrest and Morgan Boyd (6-1) from Olathe (Kan.) East.
"I played with a couple of the out-of-state recruits at camps," Brittney Richardson said. "I played with Whitney, Shanita and (Lady Razorback guard) Kendra Roberts on AAU teams. This past summer, me and Whitney played on several teams. Just knowing the girls, playing with several of them, and talking to others at visits, I think we're going to do well."
And doing well is what Mountain Home Lady Bomber Head Coach Dell Leonard hopes his troops can do this year, Richardson's first at the school.
"She can fit in at any spot on the floor," he said. "We can put her anywhere we want, whether it be at the point guard, the wing, or the post. We do have a true point guard here, and that allows us to use (Brittney) in a lot of areas. The things we love about her are her ability to shoot the 3, her ability to put the ball on the floor and take it to the hole. Plus, she can post you up. She understands the game of basketball. There's no doubt about that."
A knowledge of the game no doubt honed from playing anytime, anywhere a ball is being bounced on the floor.
"She's missed a lot of proms and dances, just all kinds of things, in order to play basketball," said Sherry Richardson, Brittney's mother. "She's really given a lot. People don't realize the sacrifices you have to make to get to this point. We're really proud of her."
And while cracking the regular rotation at an SEC school may be tough for a freshman to do, Richardson is looking forward to the challenge.
"I hope to play early there, but it's going to be tough with everyone we've got, but hopefully I will learn and step it with them," she said. "Arkansas is building its team to play at the NCAA Tournament level, and that's where I want to be. Being in state, the Razorbacks are where you always want to go, but I never really thought about it until they offered. But when they did, it was 'Wow, this is where I'm going.'"