Richards sweeps Defensive POY awards

Junior guard Didi Richards dribbles the ball during Baylor's 83-62 win against Iowa State at the Ferrell Center. Richards receive both conference and national Defensive Player of the Year awards. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Editor

By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer

Baylor women’s basketball’s Didi Richards received her third postseason award Wednesday when she was named the 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.

The announcement came after the junior guard was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association on Monday and was given the same award by the Big 12 prior to the cancellation of the championship tournament three weeks ago.

Richards is the third player to win the Naismith version of the DPOY, which first became an honor in 2018. Richards said she actually didn’t know it was even an award.

“I didn’t even know that Naismith had an award for Defensive Player of the Year,” Richards said. “So it wasn’t a goal, but it is an honor to get it, for sure. Defense is one side of the ball that gets overlooked a lot, so I’m glad they made it an award.”

Richards, who averaged 1.7 steals per game on the season, often shows her passion and energy on the court. The Cypress native said she thinks defensive success is about “pouring your heart into the game.”

“I give my heart and I give my best effort that I can,” Richards said. “That’s why I get the results I get.”

In a statement announcing that Richards had won the WBCA award on Monday, Executive Director Danielle M. Donehew praised Richards’s qualities on and off the court.

“Defense is about determination, intensity, effort and teamwork,” Donehew said. “Didi Richards is an outstanding student-athlete who embodies these characteristics at the highest level. DiDi has consistently presented a challenge to opposing coaches and players. We celebrate her contribution to her team and to the game of women’s basketball.”

Richards’s leadership as well as the success she had on the defensive end was a reason why Baylor was arguably the best defensive team in the country in 2020. The Lady Bears led the NCAA in opposing field-goal percentage and ranked second in the country in total scoring defense.

Richards said that while defense has always been important to her, playing under head coach Kim Mulkey has made her focus on that aspect of the game even more.

“Her passion for the defensive side of the ball is what has drawn me so much into defense,” Richards said. “I don’t think, if I was anywhere else, I would be playing as hard on the defensive end. That’s definitely Coach Mulkey.”

Richards said that she believes her intensity helps her act as a “sparkplug” on the floor, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“I go out of my way to get a charge called so I can get the crowd and my team into it,” Richards said. “Or I go out of my to get a steal to get us fast break points to get the team to relax. So I do think that my defense directly correlates with the energy of the team.”

Richards had a simple reason that drives her to be great on defense.

“I don’t like to get scored on,” Richards said.