Lucky Charm

Philip George / Roundup

Throughout the Brahmas’ recently concluded season, one player has literally and figuratively stood taller than the rest.

They call her “Lucky,” and she has truly lived up to the moniker.

For her contributions to Pierce College’s 2008-09 campaign which culminated in the first postseason berth in the history of Pierce women’s basketball, Tiara Richardson has been crowned Most Valuable Player of the Western State Conference North Division.

“I’m a really humble player so I just took it as ‘Oh, that’s nice. Now let’s go win the championship,'” Richardson said moments after learning of her achievement during the team’s Feb. 23 practice.

With an early exit at the hands of the Citrus College Owls in the southern regional bracket’s play-in round, Richardson and Pierce did not win their championship, but assistant head coach Ralph Wesson maintains that without their star center, the Brahmas may not have even reached that far.

“She’s a rebounding machine,” he said. “I don’t think we would have won most of our games without her rebounding.”

Standing 6’1″ above the hardwood, Richardson led the conference in rebounds with 481, dwarfing her nearest competitor (Nikki Graham of Santa Barbara City College with 280). She also finished tied for second in blocks (48) to edge out Ventura College’s Michelle Santizo and Moorpark College’s Tiffany Hurd for the award.

Richardson was also elected first team all-conference for her second season in a row, as well as second team all-state.

“Her presence alone is a really big deal,” said sophomore guard Bridget Jenkins, Richardson’s closest friend on the team. “I think she worked hard last year and this year to improve on little things and she was the toughest to guard in the league.”

“She’s an intimidating factor,” Wesson said. “When a player from the other team comes down the middle and sees her, she can get up and jump so quick that she alters people’s shots.”

The intimidating aspect, however, is that Richardson’s basketball career has merely begun.

“I’m actually new to the game of basketball and a lot of people don’t know that,” she said. “I really got serious about basketball my junior year in high school but I rode the bench. In my senior year, I played for a nice travel team over the summer and I dominated and got recruited.”

Fresh out of Palm Harbor University High School in Palm Harbor, Fla., Richardson chose to spend the 2006-07 season as a red-shirt freshman at the University of West Florida, a Division II school in Pensacola.

“I chose to red-shirt there because my skill level wasn’t where it should have been and I had a bunch of seniors ahead of me,” she said. “I didn’t like the environment of where I was, so I left and came to California.”

Now a sophomore, Richardson joined the Brahmas last season and immediately impressed the coaching staff with her athletic ability.

“We had been e-mailing each other and she had been bragging about how athletic she was,” said head coach Jim Couch. “She didn’t lie.”

Aside from pure talent, Richardson brought something else to the Brahmas.

“I bring a lot of attitude to our game,” Richardson admitted. “We have a lot of lax players but I get them pumped up on the court and ready to dominate [by doing it myself]. Follow the leader.”

“She’s a character,” Wesson agreed. “She’s matured in some ways and still, she’s just a big kid. She’s a free-spirited human being.

“In some ways, it helps her game because she is able to ease her athleticism and in some ways it hurts it because she doesn’t always do the fundamentals correctly. If a shot should be a fundamental shot, she does it her free-spirited way,” he continued.

He smiled. “But that’s Lucky.”

That kind of free-spiritedness and quirkiness, although something her teammates and coaches can chuckle at now, had a somewhat irksome effect upon Richardson’s arrival.

 

“I didn’t really respect her game that much until she proved she was actually there for the team,” Jenkins said. “She’s really come a long way in my eyes. I feel like we really need her out there on the court. With her out there, it helps the rest of the players out.”

But aside from Richardson’s raw talent, athleticism and a little attitude, she claims to have a secret weapon – the wildly patterned socks she trots out in each game she plays.

“I’m a more standout-type person and I felt that regular socks were too plain,” she explained. “It just got routine that I would wear a different pair of socks with something on them. I can never wear a plain pair of socks. If I even try to wear a pair of plain socks, I’ll probably break my leg or something.

“I got a pair that has different color stripes on them. They trip me out so I got them. I love to wear them because they don’t match with anything and the coaches hate them,” she continued. “They’re like, ‘Lucky, follow the rules.’ I’m like, ‘No, they’re my socks.'”

The socks, of various brands, colors and designs come from a wide variety of locations, but one pair remains Richardson’s favorite.

“I’ve got tons of socks, thousands of socks, a lot of socks,” boasted the center. “I can get them from the mall, Zumiez, Journey’s — I can go into a Chinese hair store and see a pair of socks and be like, ‘Oh yeah, those will definitely go with the uniform.’

“My favorite socks: Last year, Valentines Day, [former Brahma] Emmilee Ringelberg gave me a pair of Spiderman socks. They’re my absolute favorite pair of socks. I love Spiderman.”

Richardson recalled wearing her Spiderman socks when she and the Brahmas clinched their postseason spot Feb. 21 against Cuesta College, and plans to wear them again at the California Community College Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Sophomore Showcase this Friday in Fresno. Afterwards, she and her footwear will decide their future.

Richardson is currently weighing a list of options including Hawaii Pacific University, Providence College, Pepperdine University, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Monterey Bay and U.C. Santa Barbara.

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pgeorge_roundupnews@yahoo.com

(Louie Heredia / Roundup)