Shereesha Richards is only a sophomore, but it’s a safe bet that her name will be all over the Albany record books by the time she graduates. The 6-1 Jamaican-born forward, last year’s America East Co-Rookie of the Year, has nine conference player of the week honors to her credit (that’s a conference record), and, yes, it’s only January.
Richards, who averages 22.9 points and 10.7 rebounds, is not only the leading scorer in America East, but the 10th-best scorer in all of NCAA Division I women's hoops. She has Albany on top of the conference standings, a perfect 6-0 in league play. Her 41 points against Vermont on Jan. 9 set the program mark for points in a single game. She got those points with an efficient 17-24 (70.8 percent) field-goal shooting, and added 11 boards to make it a double-double. Richards’ 21-point, career-best 18-rebound afternoon on Jan. 12 lifted the Great Danes over Hartford in a rematch of last year’s conference title game. In a Dec. 19 game at Duke, Richards notched 24 points with seven boards.
This all comes from a kid who didn’t start playing organized basketball until 2009. Captain of the U-16 netball team in Jamaica, Richards moved to Egg Harbor Township, N.J., after told of her potential when she attended camp in her hometown, Rae Town, Jamaica. She landed at Atlantic Christian High, moving in with her high school coach, and led that team to its first state championship. She became the first female athlete from that school to receive a full Division I scholarship in any sport when she was offered by Albany’s Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.
She took some time from the chilly temperatures in Albany to chat with Full Court.
Full Court: Given how tropical it is back in your home, how do you handle the New York winter?
Shereesha Richards: “I don’t really like the cold. This morning I had my mittens on doing weights because my fingers are always freezing.”
Full Court: What do you miss about Jamaica besides family?
Richards: “My number one thing is probably the food.” (Richards lists her favorite dishes as curry goat and rice and peas.)
Full Court: So netball was your sport before basketball?
Richards: “I grew up playing netball. I never really played basketball until I got over here. I love netball, because it’s a fun sport to play. Basketball is more physical and aggressive, which I don’t mind. I like both of them the same. Netball has 14 players; you don’t have a backboard. The ball is the size of a volleyball. You’re only allowed in certain areas, so you’re not allowed to dribble. You pass and move.
Full Court: How hard was it to adjust to basketball?
Richards: “The main thing was dribbling, coming from a sport where you don’t dribble, you just pass the ball. I’m still not great at it.”
Full Court: What other colleges did consider?
“Besides Albany, Boston University, New Hampshire and North Florida. There was a bond with Coach A (Katie Abrahamson-Henderson) the first time I spoke to her. There was a different feeling the first time I spoke to her. There was something about her demeanor compared to all the other coaches. Her husband (Michael) is Jamaican, and there were other Jamaicans here. I didn’t want to go far away from all the Jamaicans I knew in Jersey, so I didn’t want to go all the way to down to Florida.”
Full Court: How cool is it that your coach’s husband is from Jamaica? (Michael Henderson is also a former Harlem Globetrotter.)
Richards: “It’s great. He’s familiar with the food. He’ll cook and everything. He just made Jamaican food for the team.”
Full Court: So nine Player of the Week honors?
Richards: “I didn’t plan on getting Player of the Week every week! It’s a goal my teammates set for me. Personally, I just want to win. But I knew I needed to step up because we lost four seniors. I go hard all the time.”
Full Court: When you’re not on court, what do you enjoy doing?
Richards: “I like cooking. I enjoy making stuff. American food is not hard because they throw whatever sauce there is to go on something. I like when food is seasoned – onions, tomatoes – and Americans don’t do that. Jamaicans use all these different ingredients. I normally make curry chicken and white rice.”
Full Court: Talk about your major.
Richards: “I’m studying criminology, but I might switch it to public health. I want to go into the nutrition field, and if not, I’d like to open a restaurant. “
Full Court: You’re unbelievably accurate (.635 field-goal percentage). Does it come easy?
Richards: “It doesn’t. I’m getting triple-teamed. My team is always making fun of me, saying, ‘Reesh is always turning her body in the most awkward ways.’ If there’s ever a day I take a normal shot, it’s not going in. How do I do it? I really don’t know.”
Full Court: What’s the goal this season?
Richards: “Definitely win our conference outright first and make it past the first round of the NCAA (Tournament).”
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