“She gets practice started,” Rutledge said. “They do their stretching and she gets all the drills started. I don’t have to worry about a bunch of girls—because we have so many young girls—goofing off or anything. She’s got them in line ready to go and everything’s good. Her strength on the court too—she is as tough as they come.”
Rutledge said there isn’t a lot of coaching involved with Richardson because she is a natural leader, as should be the case at the point guard position.
“It’s like having another coach on the court,” he said. “She’s an extension of me. What she has to do is learn what I want to do without me telling her. A lot of times I just leave her alone. I know she hates that sometimes, but a lot of times I just leave her alone and let her make up her mind what needs to be done out there because she’s out there and she sees everything.”
After coming to CVA from Chelsea, Richardson led the Lady Rebels in scoring last season with 22.3 points per game and 8.3 steals per game. This season, her numbers have been even better. Through the team’s first seven games, she is averaging 28.4 points per game, 9.4 steals per game, 4.9 assists per game and 6.1 rebounds per game. Just to put her contributions in perspective, the entire CVA team averages 48 points per game and 11.8 steals per game.
“I just really like this place and my teammates,” Richardson said. “We just have really good chemistry and great coaching. I feel like we’re going to do really good this year with all of us playing a part.”
Richardson has been playing basketball—and softball—since she was seven years old. She’s the leadoff hitter for the Lady Rebels in softball while manning second base or outfield.
Her father, Todd Richardson, coached her in both sports, including her AAU basketball team.
“He was the one that knew exactly what I was doing wrong, like I didn’t put enough arc on the ball or I needed to move my feet on defense,” she said. “He knew exactly what I needed to do, and he knew that with everybody. It was just weird how he just figured these things out.”
A little more than a year ago, her father died. Danielle said it is as if he’s still in the stands because he used to be the loudest person at her games.
“I try not to think of what happened; I try to think of mainly his advice and just kind of remember what he was trying to tell me and just remember to arc my shot and move my feet and look up when I dribble,” she said. “I can still remember all these things he’s telling me because he would yell so loud in the crowd.”
More than anything else, her father tried to emphasize the core elements.
“That was a big thing with my dad was fundamentals,” Richardson said. “He said at college that’s the number one thing that you need is fundamentals.”
Rutledge said a key element to Richardson being a highly coachable player has to do with how her father taught her to play the game.
“I’ve coached a lot of coaches’ daughters, or coaches’ sons when I was coaching boys,” Rutledge said. “A lot of times it’s not good because they’ve taught them a certain thing that you may not agree with. He instilled in her what she should be doing correctly. She gives me 110 all the time because that’s what he instilled in her. He really did a great job preparing her for what she’s doing now.”
Among the many elements Richardson most likes about basketball (she says she could write an entire paper on it, and for many high school students that would probably be a more enjoyable paper than say, characteristics of arthropods), some are: team work, physically running, strong communication with others, and the high level of action involved in the sport.
Off the court and the softball field, Richardson enjoys Spanish and is actively involved in her church, The Connection in Chelsea. Her service has helped her build leadership qualities.
“I work the kids’ service a lot and stand up and lead for the kids’ worship,” she said. “I have to keep them in control a lot.”
Richardson hopes to one day play college basketball. She has attended several summer camps to improve and to have a chance to have college coaches and scouts see her play.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Richardson said emphatically.
Among the things she wants to work on, she said shooting is a constant, as well as trying to fine tune other areas, such as trying to make her passes crisper.
Rutledge believes she will have the chance to play at the next level.
“I think she’ll be able to play in college,” he said. “I’ve coached a lot and I’ve had several girls go and play college basketball. I think she’s got a chance to play in college for sure.”
CVA has had to work on rebuilding team chemistry with three new starters, having lost three seniors from last year’s team. Rutledge said the team is really beginning to show strong chemistry at this point in the season, in large part due to Richardson’s leadership.
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the season,” he said. “She’s just a junior, so we’ve got another year together, and I’m excited about that. She’s as tough as they come.”