By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
There’s perhaps no one that expects more out of Didi Richards than, well, Didi Richards. One of only two returning fourth-year players for the Baylor women’s basketball team, the Cypress senior will be leading the Lady Bears from the point guard position rather than the wing this year.
Richards said although she gets “tested every day,” but not a role change she’s surprised by or hasn’t been in before.
“It’s something I wasn’t not ready for,” Richards said. “I think I’ve always been the type of player that played at a high speed the entire time. Now it’s just different parts of the floor … I was a point guard my freshman year [of high school] and in middle school. Now I’m back to where I once was.”
On a roster made up of 12 players, eight of them guards, head coach Kim Mulkey said she placed Richards in the point guard position because she’s the most experienced player she has.
“She’s not a point guard,” Mulkey said. “Didi is going to be asked to do a lot of things. She already has been asked to do a lot of things in her career, but she’s going to have to play four positions possibly for us, and that’s everywhere but the five. She has just embraced that. She understands that it will make her a better basketball player.
“When you can do multiple things on the offensive end of the floor it just makes you that much more valuable. We already know what she can do defensively.”
Mulkey said Richards will handle the ball until younger players like freshman Sarah Andrews and sophomore transfer Jaden Owens are ready to take the hardwood, but per the NCAA transfer rule, Owens will be ineligible to play this season. Sophomore guard Jordyn Oliver could see time at the point as well.
Playing mainly on the perimeter, Richards has been regarded as one of the league’s most talented true two-way players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. A unanimous selection to the 2020 Big 12 All-Defensive Team, Richards was named the Naismith, WBCA, Big 12 and Texas Defensive Player of the Year at the end of her junior season.
It was no surprise she was also selected to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. What was a surprise was it wasn’t a unanimous selection. However, Richards said she only sees that as motivation.
“I can always take that as fuel, which as I do,” Richards said. “People are going to look at stats at the end of the day. As long as I know what I bring to the table, my team knows I bring a lot to the table, that’s all that matters — going out there and performing every day, the way I can, whether they notice it or not.”
Before the cancellation of both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, Richards last saw the court in a live game in Baylor’s regular season finale against Iowa State. She led the Lady Bears with 15 points, two blocks, five assists and six rebounds. However, she also recorded five fouls, the last of which gave the Cyclones the free throw they needed to upset Baylor 57-56 in the final second of the game.
According to Richards, that loss has added to Baylor’s fuel after the cancellation of the 2020 postseason.
“I think that’s what’s driven us,” Richards said. “The fact that we did lose our last game and we felt that was going to be the turning point of our season. That was going to be the run we went on and it just sucks that it ended the way it did. So, that’s why there’s a little more smoke behind our butts right now.”
Richards said she spent a lot of time studying game film during quarantine, the Iowa State game in particular.
“I watched a lot of games. I definitely watched the Iowa State game, the one we lost. I watched it at least 20 to 30 times, I’m not kidding. But I watched a lot of games. I didn’t want that to happen again,” Richards said. “I worked hard this summer trying to get my game to another level and my confidence built.”
Richards has also gained more confidence in her mid-range jumper, saying she wants to be the one taking the shots now that she’s playing the point. She also said she’s working on her mental game at the line, all of which will add to her draft stock. Mulkey said she has no doubt Richards will be a first-round draft pick at the end of the season.
“Didi Richards will be a first-round draft pick next year,” Mulkey said. “I think if she stays healthy and has a good year, she’s a first-rounder … You don’t win a Defensive Player of the Year award if you’re not pretty darn good. I think as they see her score the basketball more, as they see her handle the basketball more, I think her stock will just rise.”
Richards and the Lady Bears will tip off against Central Arkansas on Nov. 25 to start the 2020-2021 season at the Ferrell Center.