Richards thrilled to be able to go full circle

Brittany Richards has returned to Dunedin to take up a role as Basketball Otago’s new community...
Brittany Richards has returned to Dunedin to take up a role as Basketball Otago’s new community development officer. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
There was a time when Brittany Richards was as familiar a figure on court as anyone at the Edgar Centre.

She was the type who never missed a 6am academy training.

There were regular shooting sessions, usually with now Tall Fern twin sister Zoe.

Come game time, she was well known as a deadly three-point shooter for St Hilda’s Collegiate and Otago age-grade teams.

Refereeing and helping out around the place always fitted among everything else.

It all took her to the United States in late 2015 to play college basketball, first for Gillette College, in Wyoming, then the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

She returned to New Zealand fulltime when the pandemic hit.

Having graduated with a business degree, she completed a masters in sport and recreation management at Lincoln University in Christchurch.

And that has led her home.

Richards will reprise her role as one of the Edgar Centre’s most familiar faces.

The 24-year-old will begin in late January as Basketball Otago’s new community development officer.

"It’s really exciting, actually," she said.

"Being able to go full circle, all those opportunities I had, 6am trainings, academies, playing, and then intermediate refereeing, that was one of my first jobs out of high school.

"I feel very blessed to be able to be considered to be in that position. I feel great that, maybe, I can be part of someone else’s journey of pursuing basketball, or just realising it’s a sport they love.

"If I can help with an individual’s enjoyment of the sport of basketball, that’s fantastic.

"It did so much for me. To be able to provide it for someone else is awesome."

Richards is excited to live in Dunedin for the first time in six years.

She had made visits back, during which she played for the Otago Gold Rush, over the American summer holidays.

However, they had always been temporary.

She had enjoyed her time away, but it had also shown her how much she loved the city.

The Alaskan winters, of temperatures as low as -40degC and daylight for less than four hours, gave her a particularly strong contrast.

It had been a growth experience, though, often having to overcome adversity.

Notably, she had to work her way into regular game time and a starting position, where she averaged 5.7 points per game as a senior.

"It was the most growth I ever had," Richards said.

"The teams I played for, we weren’t the best. I started off being a bench player, I didn’t play much.

"But by my senior year, I finally got an opportunity. I just learnt a lot about hard work. If you’re willing to put in the work, you can go so far.

"For me, I just got the most growth. I realised I can do this. I’m good enough.

"I did really well in school and I ended up doing better in basketball.

"It was like, ‘Hey, if I put my mind to this, I can do this’.

"It gave me confidence going into now. If I’m willing to learn, I’m going to grow and hopefully be a great benefit to others."

Richards was unsure where playing would fit now.

Last year, she played for the Canterbury Wildcats in the National Basketball League.

She hoped to continue in some capacity — whether at national league or just locally — although her priority was going to be her professional career.

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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