Cavaliers basketball forward Austin Richardson was a missing gem before she was signed to play for the team. Richardson registered her 14th double-double of the season to help her team cruise to a win against defending champions Kansas City Kansas Community College at home on Feb. 4.
“We saw her and loved her length, athleticism and her skills,” coach Ben Conrad said. “We just really thought she was an undervalued recruit that a lot of higher level schools were missing the boat on. We also knew she would improve quickly here.”
Then there was the matter of getting started for Richardson and all the feelings that go along with starting things off in a new place.
“I was kind of nervous because I was an incoming freshman. I heard of how good this school was; I didn’t know if I would really fit,” Richardson admitted.
Richardson turned out to be a fast learner, and Conrad’s prediction turned out to be spot on. “She’s gotten stronger, she’s learned to defend in our system,” Conrad said. “She can score at all three levels; from the arc, at mid-range and at the rim.”
Richardson recently scored 15 points and hauled in 17 rebounds in a 61-25 blowout win over Fort Scott Community College.
“[Conrad] teaches us to go to the glass and continue to go on to the glass after the play is over,” Richardson said of a competitive drill during practice that involves going after rebounds, complete with winners and losers.
Richardson remembers last year’s upset loss in the playoffs all too well. That experience is providing some incentive this year.
“Last year was an upset, and it kind of hurt all of us,” Richardson said.
Her goal is for the team to go all the way. She would very much like to finish her career at the college with a championship ring on her finger.
Team chemistry apparently won’t be a problem during a run towards a championship. The team is together on and off the court.
“We have built a family here, and it’s a bond that can’t be broken,” Richardson said.
What is apparent is that this has been a learning experience for her. The culture of Conrad’s coaching has clearly affected her and helped her grow as a player. “She’s grown up a great deal,” Conrad said. “She needs to continue to work at making others around her better, but she is definitely a kid that everyone looks up to.”
Richardson continues to work on her inside-outside game — particularly, her three point shot at the moment. She loves to drive to the basket, and clearly will be an integral part of the championship drive.
“She will play a huge role,” Conrad said. “She is a top 20 [community college] player in the country in my opinion. We will lean heavily on her.”