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Autumn Johnson | October 28, 2020

Baylor's DiDi Richards is college basketball's best defender and ready to be known for more in her last run

DiDi Richards is back and eager to resume where she left off

When we last checked in on Baylor, the defending NCAA champ was right where it needed to be in the chase for a second consecutive title. The Bears were first in the Big 12, 28-2 overall and ranked third in the nation.

Then came the pandemic and the cancellation of the season.

DiDi Richards, the Naismith Defensive player of the Year, is ready to pick right up where she left off. Richards said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey and her team have adopted “Finish what we started” as their motto headed into the 2020-21 season. They’ll get their chance to do just that beginning Nov. 25 on the road against Central Arkansas.

Richards is known as one of the nation's top on-ball defenders. She told NCAA.com that she wants to be known for more in her last run. 

"I want to be a better help defender for my team," she said. "I want to help [Queen Egbo] and [NaLyssa Smith] whenever they're getting buried inside. Right now I'm playing point guard, so I want to be able to dish the ball to my teammates ... or score the ball when I need to. I just want to be the player that you can't take off the court."

The 6'1" guard averaged 8.2 points and 4.9 rebounds with 170 assists and 52 steals in her junior year. She was fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Richards will be one of two returning starters along with NaLyssa Smith after losing three starting seniors — Lauren Cox, Te'a Cooper and Juicy Landrum —  to the WNBA. Knowing the leadership both Richards and Smith have to bring as the Bears' leading scorers, plus Baylor getting accustomed to a new starting five, they are both determined to be on the same page to remain championship contenders. 

There's also some newcomers that have been added to Baylor's successful program Stanford transfer Dijonai Carrington joins forces with the Bears as do top recruits Hannah Gusters and Sarah Andrews. Richards believes they've already made an impact, and she's excited for fans to see their abilities on the court.

"I think it's how fast we are," Richards said. "Last year we were pretty fast, but I think this year we're getting up and down the court a lot smoother, a lot faster with Queen and Nalyssa having a little bit more experience from last year. I think our post are able to run a lot more, so I'm pretty excited for you all to see that, because I see it every day." 

NCAA Power 10: Women's college basketball rankings: South Carolina leads preseason Power 10 for 2020-21

With Richards' junior year cut short due to the spread of the virus, she is looking forward to lacing up Nov. 25th and closing out her legacy strong with Baylor.  

"I'm just trying to make a statement that I'm not just a defender that everyone kind of paints me out to be," Richards said. "That's probably my own thing that I'm reaching for this year. Other than that, making my name known as a winner."

 

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