“She’s one of the top [players] in the nation,” Craven stressed. “One of the best.”
Upon meeting the young lady she was referring to at South Washington County Library in Oakdale on a cool winter afternoon last week, it was apparent that Craven was right on the money with her remarks.
Adrienne Richardson is one of the top players in the nation. The 17-year-old is a junior who attends Tartan High School in Oakdale.
The center, who also plays forward, has already accepted a full scholarship offer to play and pursue her athletic and educational ambitions at Louisiana State University in the fall of 2017.
The phenom recently participated the 2017 Girls IMG Academy, an elite camp featuring the top 150 juniors in the nation.
Oh, there is one little detail I failed to mention: Richardson does not play basketball! She plays soccer, a sport that was first brought to her attention by her parents when she was in second grade.
Though her parents exposed her to different activities early on, Richardson said it was soccer where they saw the most potential. “My parents wanted me to try different activities,” she said. “There was tennis, music, t-ball and track,” she recalled. “My dad just pushed me a little more towards soccer, and I just kept playing.”
“I saw the potential early on,” Chance Richardson said of his daughter. “I saw the potential for personal growth.”
Chance Richardson’s vision of that potential has become crystal clear to him, his wife Teynae Richardson — a former basketball star from Minneapolis Southwest who went on to play at the University of St. Thomas — and their talented daughter.
Adrienne Richardson doesn’t play for Tartan. She is a member of the Minnesota Thunder Academy (ENCL), one of the top elite soccer programs in the country.
She started getting noticed her freshman year and received scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Georgia, Minnesota, Kentucky and LSU.
So why LSU? “They have great coaches and facilities,” Adrienne Richardson said.
“They seemed to show the most interest,” Chance Richardson recalled. “At the elite camps, they [LSU coaching staff] always watched her the entire time she played. They never went to look at anyone else when she was playing. That impressed us a lot.”
Adrienne Richardson smiled as she explained why the LSU coaches might have paid a little more attention to her as her career progressed.
“Two years ago, our team was going to the nationals in Virginia,” she said. “I was hanging with a teammate in the airport, and we went to the wrong gate and missed the team flight,” she continued with a chuckle. “I was very upset when I called my parents, but they calmed me down and told me to get another flight.”
The younger Richardson and her teammate booked another flight. On the flight she struck up a conversation with the person seated next to her. That person happened to be an assistant soccer coach from LSU. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Adrienne Richardson is the No. 39-ranked player in the nation and her team’s leading scorer with a 1.25 goals-per-game average to go along with 14 goals and nine assists.
The Thunder are also the nation’s top-ranked team.
With all her success, Richardson also understands the importance of her presence as a participant in a sport that is not popular among African Americans. “My parents have always stressed that as an African American athlete, I have to work twice as hard as anyone else and lead by example,” she stressed. “That has kept me focused.”
Chance Richardson had something more to say about his daughter’s influence on the sport.
“One final point I wanted to make regarding Adrienne’s play [is that] both my wife and I have watched over the years as many persons of color have followed, cheered, and even started their children in the sport because of her personal growth in the sport,” he emphasized. “We truly believe this adds more awareness to the sport of soccer, not to mention people realizing there are no boundaries to your dreams.”
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.