Undrafted rookie takes her shot at the pros

Breanna Richardson (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

What do Adrian Dantley, Gary Brokaw, John Shumate and Breanna Richardson have in common? They are all part of hoop history.

Dantley, Brokaw and Shumate were teammates on the 1973-74 Notre Dame squad that defeated UCLA in January 1974, snapping the Bruins’ 88-win streak. And just a few weeks ago, Richardson and her Mississippi State mates in overtime defeated Connecticut in this year’s NCAA semifinals. The March 31 win snapped the Huskies’ 111-win streak along with UConn’s 28-game NCAA tournament win streak.

“I was there,” said Richardson humbly on the “instant classic” that had higher ratings than an NBA game being telecast at the same time. “Everybody wanted to see that game,” she added.

The 6’-1” Richardson from Conyers, Georgia finished her four-year Mississippi State career with a kinesiology degree and the school’s all-time record in games played (140), the 10th in school history to score 1,000 career points, and 650 career rebounds. A three-time Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll member, Richardson in her junior year hit the winning three-pointer to defeat Michigan State in the second round of the 2016 NCAAs. It was only her third made trey that season.

But all that now takes a back seat as Richardson is one of five rookies vying for one of probably two openings on the 2017 Minnesota Lynx season roster next month. The Lynx training camp roster stands at 16 players, only 11 of whom can be carried into the regular season.

“I am learning a lot of stuff, and taking it all in,” Richardson, an undrafted rookie, told the MSR after Sunday’s practice at the team’s downtown Minneapolis training facility — training camp opened Sunday. “I’m asking as many questions [as] I can.”

But the young woman still reflected on being at her school’s first-ever Final Four. “Everybody doubted us” on beating UConn, said Richardson, recalling Mississippi State’s mindset “to go in and make history. It was crazy but at the same time, a blessing. It just showed how much hard work paid off throughout the year. It basically showed that we could play with anybody.

“We played with a chip on our shoulders. Before [the game], Coach [Vic Schaefer] said that everybody has to take it personally. We got beat by 60 [points to UConn in last year’s NCAAs].  We knew they were going to make their run, and we were going to have our runs.

“Our main thing was to punch first,” said Richardson. She admits there were times during the game she and the team had to fight back against any self-doubts and stay focused on the task at hand.

Although MSU fell short two days later, losing to South Carolina in the April 2 national finals, “It was a great experience,” continued Richardson on the recently completed historic 34-win campaign and national runners-up season. “All year nobody picked us to do anything. We had to play for ourselves and not rely on anyone else.”

Richardson has brought that same mindset with her to Minnesota as she competes for a pro job, to be around “so much championship behavior… [I] wanted to be surrounded by that,” she said. “I have been under the radar all my life. I knew I had to come with a chip on my shoulder.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.