2,000 points is just the start for Richards
By Troy Farkas
When Shereesha Richards scored on a putback layup with 8:43 remaining in the fourth quarter of a blowout win against the University of Vermont on Jan. 9, everyone was staring at her, and she wasn’t quite sure why.
It was because Richards, University at Albany’s star senior forward, had just scored her 2,000th point as a Great Dane — a feat that had previously never been accomplished by any player in the history of UAlbany women’s basketball. She was told the day before the game that she was approaching the milestone, but she didn’t know how many points she needed to score that game to reach the mark.
“I didn’t know. That’s something I try not to think about,” Richards said. “I don’t want to know how much I am away from making a record or breaking a record.”
The 2,000 point mark is one of many milestones reached by Richards, who is in the final season of one of the best careers in America East women’s basketball history. She also holds the record for most America East Player of the Week honors, bringing home 20 of the awards since her freshman year at UAlbany.
The native-born Jamaican, who played her high school ball at Atlantic Christian (N.J.), was honored prior to a Jan. 15 game at SEFCU Arena against the University of Maine for her scoring achievement.
“It was pretty cool, having everyone cheer for you and applaud you for your accomplishment,” Richards said. “It was just a great feeling to see everyone excited for my accomplishment and congratulating me on reaching that milestone.”
When UAlbany Head Coach Katie AbrahamsonHenderson landed Richards four years ago, she knew she was getting a top talent, but couldn’t possibly have predicted Richards would become the player she is today.
“I wanted to start crying. I feel like a proud parent,” said Henderson, known as Coach Abe to her players. “Watching her go through four years and already scoring that many in just the second game in-conference is pretty amazing.”
Abrahamson-Henderson, whose husband comes from Jamaica, noted the importance of Richards’ roots, saying she knew Richards would be a “really tough and humble” player based on what she already knew about the work ethic of people with ties to the island country.
“She is the hardest worker on our team. She never quits,” Abrahamson-Henderson said, now in her sixth season leading the Great Danes. “We never have to turn her up and say ‘go harder’.”
For most high-volume scorers, it takes a lot of shot attempts to put up big scoring numbers. That isn’t the case for Richards, who averages 23.6 points per game while shooting 56 percent from the field. She holds the top two scoring games by America East players this season, putting up 41 points in a mid-December game against UC Davis, as well as a 34-point performance against Maine. The 6’1” Richards also averages nine rebounds and has recorded eight double-doubles this season.
Despite the accolades, Richards doesn’t play for personal glory, according to those who know her.
“I love being [Shereesha’s] teammate,” said point guard Zakiya Saunders. “She is not selfish about anything or cocky. She is just great.”
“Her team loves her. They would get the ball to her every single second,” AbrahamsonHenderson said.
It is that kind of camaraderie that makes a successful basketball team, especially one like the UAlbany women, who sit atop the America East Conference with an unblemished record of 6-0 in the conference. They are led by the high-octane scoring duo of Richards and junior guard Imani Tate, who chips in 18 points per game for the Danes.
The ride is almost over for Richards, who will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. It’s very rare for a basketball player from the Capital Region to end up playing basketball professionally. But for a player of Richards’ caliber, the idea isn’t too far-fetched. She is a two-time America East Player of the Year, and she also received an honorable mention last year when the Associated Press announced its annual All-America teams.
The Great Danes traveled to California in December to play in the Women of Troy Classic with hopes of showcasing Richards’ talent to WNBA scouts. Richards hopes she impressed.
“I was able to perform well,” Richards said. “They were able to see me, and I somewhat made a name for myself.”
Those scouts witnessed her 41 points against UC Davis and saw her score 33 against USC.
“I feel really blessed. I didn’t know that she was going to be this good,” Abrahamson-Henderson said.