Jan. 24, 2003
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Donta Richardson has had a lot of roles on the University ofWyoming men's basketball team.
Last season as a first-year player coming in from Sheridan College,Richardson was mostly a defender. He locked down on opponents' best guardsor scoring threats.
He certainly wasn't a bad offensive player. He averaged 11.9 points per gameand split time at both the point and shooting guard positions.
Heading into this season, Richardson was still UW's top defender. He wasexpected to play mostly the two-guard and use his quickness anddribble-penetration to be one of three solid scoring threats for theCowboys. The other were forward Marc Bailey and center Uche Nsonwu-Amadi,both seniors.
On Dec. 19, Richardson's role changed again.
Bailey, UW's leading scorer at the time, suffered a season-ending kneeinjury in the Cowboys' 77-63 home win over South Carolina. Gone were morethan 15 points per game as well as the intangibles of what a team leaderbrings to his squad.
In stepped Richardson.
UW (14-3 overall, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) has won seven of the eightgames since the loss of Bailey, and Richardson has averaged 19.3 points pergame during that stretch. In five contests, he scored 20 or more points.
"This year I've become more of a complete player," said Richardson, who isUW's leading scorer at 16.5 points per game. "I can defend their best playerand also have enough energy and the killer instinct to come down and scoremyself within our offense.
"My teammates are looking for me to step up in big games, and they'relooking for me to step up in every game. And I've got to come through forthem. I'm trying to be as much of a leader as I can."
Richardson also tops the Cowboys in free throw percentage (.871), 3-pointfield goals made (1.7 per game), steals (1.29 steals per game) and 3-pointshooting percentage (.372).
But with the good comes the bad.
In UW's 46-44 victory over Air Force Monday, Richardson had just four pointson 1-9 shooting in 28 minutes of action. He picked up two early fouls andwasn't much of a factor in the game until he made some clutch free throwsdown the stretch.
"Everyone's allowed to have a bad game," coach Steve McClain said. "AirForce was completely focused on him.
"Donta is a lot more than scoring for us. He's our best defender. He's aguard who goes and gets some rebounds. I don't think Donta has to score 25points for us to win."
Bailey agrees with McClain. But he also says Richardson will see a lot ofteams bring similar defensive pressure from here on out.
"He's stepped up and tried to put a lot on his shoulders to lead this team,"Bailey said. "But he can't win every game by himself, and I think he'sstarting to feel a lot of pressure. That might be the reason why he didn'tshoot that well against Air Force.
"I think he realizes he's going to be the go-to guy now. People are going tobe all over him, but I think he can handle it."
Richardson said Bailey talked to him after the Air Force game and told himto forget about that contest and concentrate on the Cowboys' conference roadopener at 7 p.m. Saturday against Border War rival Colorado State.
Richardson appears ready.
"I'm really looking forward to playing CSU," he said. "I can't tell you howbad I want to play these guys and how bad I want to beat them. I want to getthat bad taste out of my mouth."
As one of three seniors, Richardson has become more of a team leader.
"He's contributed more to team morale and helping tell all of our teammatesto step up," Nsonwu-Amadi said.
But when opponents scout UW, they're not looking at Richardson's leadership;they look at his on-the court abilities.
CSU (13-4, 2-0) is off to a good start, and coach Dale Layer says how histeam defends Richardson will be a key factor in the game.
"No question he's their go-to guy," Layer said. "He's very confident. He'sgetting three or four more shots a game without Marc being there, and Ithink he's taken advantage of it.
"He's arguably the second-best perimeter shooter in the league behind RubenDouglas of New Mexico. He's very hard to defend."