Point guard approaches high position standards
Rutgers women’s basketball point guard Shakena Richardson drove to the left side of the post.
As her momentum brought her near the sideline Saturday, the sophomore instead showed enough body control to stay inbounds, found senior forward Chelsey Lee and showed off a behind-the-back pass for an assist.
Richardson has said repeatedly that she is obsessed with the New York style of street ball. But she has rarely put it all together for a performance up to head coach C. Vivian Stringer’s high standard for point guards.
Richardson has duped many on the court with her moves. But after ending against Villanova on Saturday with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists — all team highs — Richardson was as speechless as any defender she crossed over.
“I just turned it on, I guess,” she said.
The 5-foot-4 Richardson was the smallest piece of a small-ball lineup in overtime and the waning minutes of regulation. She shared the court with sophomore guard Syessence Davis, senior guard Erica Wheeler, freshman guard Kahleah Copper and sophomore wing Betnijah Laney.
Stringer showed more trust in her guards than she had all season against the Wildcats. Richardson deserves much of the credit for that.
She scored seven points Wednesday at Marquette, and Davis contributed six points, five boards and four assists at point guard.
With those performances in mind, the point guard position is getting back to where Stringer wants it.
“That’s probably true, or let’s say [Wednesday against] Marquette because they were phenomenal, which is brilliant,” Stringer said of whether Richardson’s and Davis’ recent performances were the best since former guard Khadijah Rushdan.
Richardson and Davis have each started the past six games. The Neptune (N.J.) High School products combined for 86 minutes against Villanova.
“From seeing the game through a two-guard perspective as the point guard, I’ve just been becoming more comfortable with the system and making plays and making it through,” Richardson said.
Davis embodies Rushdan’s unconventional point guard qualities of rebounding — she recorded six boards against Villanova — and occasional post play.
But in overtime, Rutgers needed a prototypical point guard. As Copper and Laney respectively played the four and five with unfamiliarity, they needed someone to feed them in the post.
Richardson came through with the final two assists of the game, setting up layups for Laney and then Copper.
“She saw the openings,” Laney said. “She dished it off to where it needed to be, and that’s how we were able to score and come out with a win.”
Richardson displayed the ball-handling ability and poise to drive on nearly every offensive set. In overtime, those drives resulted in assists.
But she led the scoring charge in regulation. That included a sideways, two-handed underhand shot from about 8 feet out.
Richardson has had bleak scoring nights, but that does not matter to Stringer.
“I was sharing with [Richardson] that I’ve just become more comfortable with the decisions that she’s going to make, and it’s been showing up,” Stringer said. “It’s not about the scoring. It’s about the decisions, seeing and recognizing who needs to have [the ball], what’s the situation.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JBakanTargum.