By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Shocked coursed through the world of college sports on Wednesday when it was reported that two seniors on the Baylor women’s basketball team suffered a collision during practice.
A statement released by the team confirmed that senior guards DiDi Richards and Moon Ursin suffered injuries after colliding during practice on Saturday, Oct. 24. Ursin was diagnosed with a concussion and was placed under the NCAA’s concussion protocol, but Richards was taken to Baylor Scott & White – Hillcrest Hospital after sustaining a shock to her spinal cord.
Head coach Kim Mulkey and Alex Olson, the Lady Bears’ director of athletic training, along with Ursin and Richards, met with the media on Monday to provide an update on the situation and to explain how the collision happened.
“The initial collision I did not see,” Mulkey said. “I leaned over to write something on my coaching board, but I heard it. And by the time I looked up they were both laying on the floor, so I’m going to tell you what I have seen on video.”
Mulkey explained that during a scrimmage in which both seniors were playing on the same team, Ursin hustled back to play defense after scoring a point and Richards was already back in transition defense toward the wing. As the ball was in the air after being thrown by the opposing point guard, both Richards and Ursin jumped in attempt to deny the opposing team the ball.
At the height of the jump Ursin’s head and shoulder collided with Richards’s right hip, after which Richards pirouetted in the air and landed on her left side and braced herself with her hands. Ursin was able to get up and walk but Richards remained on the floor, dazed.
“When I got there, DiDi was unconscious for a short period of time,” Olson said. “When she came to, she was very lucid and able to respond to all of my questions. At that point, she said she had some trouble in her lower extremities and that’s why we took the spinal cord precautions from that point on.”
Both Richards and Ursin said they were feeling better and making progress every day. Richards did not suffer any permanent damage to her spinal cord, according to Mulkey and Olson. Ursin is now in the third phase of the NCAA’s five-phase concussion protocol and said she can’t wait to get back to playing with her team.
“I feel better today than I was a week ago,” Ursin said. “In the moment it was scary. It was a hit that I’ve never taken before … It was so quick. I think that also scared me a little bit too, how fast it happened, because I was like, ‘I don’t know where.’ And it was such a hard collision.”
Richards said that after the collision, everything bellow her knees felt numb but that she is getting better as she goes through rehab. Olson said that Richards underwent several tests and scans both locally at Baylor Scott & White and in Dallas but that there were no abnormalities seen in any of the results.
Richards said she still plans on playing this season but the timeline for a full recovery has not been set in stone. According to Olson, it depends on how Richards feels as she goes through rehab.
“I mean, it’s affected the way I strut. You know, Coach Mulkey used to always talk about me walking like a ballplayer,” Richards said. “But that’s the only thing I think it’s really affected. I’m still going to be me at the end of the day. I don’t want people around me feeling down when they see me, or sad.”
While she won’t be on the court for a while, Mulkey stressed that Richards will still play a major role in terms of team leadership as other experienced players, who weren’t starters last years, step into new roles. With Richards out until further notice, sophomore guard Jordyn Oliver and freshman guard Sarah Andrews will likely be taking over at the point.
“The contingency plan is, we’re going to have Jordyn Oliver and Sarah Andrews be our primary ball handlers,” Mulkey said. “Sarah being a freshman, it’s going to take her a little bit longer to adjust to this level but she’s working hard at it every day. Jordyn Oliver played some point last year behind [Te’a] Cooper. She’s definitely played it more than DiDi did and I think she understands that she has to be the most experienced ball-handler we have if we had to play a game today. And she’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
With the uncertainty of not knowing when she will be on the court again, Richards said that the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19 grants her a bit of reassurance. As a first-round prospect in the WNBA Draft, Richards has not said anything about making a decision to return for an extra year, but having the option has helped her not rush her recovery.
“I naturally am going to rush myself because at the end of the day, I want to be back on the court,” Richards said. “But knowing that I can come back it kind of makes it easier to take it literally one day at a time and get to know myself a little better.”