Duke is on a tear. The Blue Devils are on a four-game winning streak and remain undefeated at home. They are ranked No. 9 in the country by the AP Poll, and currently sit alone at the top of the ACC standings.
The big names on the team this year have been the dynamic backcourt duo of sophomore Shayeann Day-Wilson and senior Celeste Taylor. Day-Wilson has averaged 9.1 points per game and 2.4 assists, and Taylor has put up 11.8 points per game with 2.2 assists and an additional two steals on average. But this is a deep team, and other players have been coming through big-time—especially some of the other starters.
That is where sophomore Reigan Richardson comes in. The 5-foot-11 guard has been a key piece in head coach Kara Lawson’s starting lineup all year, and for good reason. The transfer from Georgia has played in all 25 games this season, and started in 18 of them.
While Richardson averages a solid but not stellar 7.2 points per game, she has picked up the slack when her teammates have struggled. Take, for example, the Blue Devils’ most recent game against Miami. Day-Wilson appeared to struggle, as she did not start and made only two field goals on four attempts, scoring six points in 24 minutes on the floor. While Day-Wilson did not necessarily have a bad game, it was certainly a below-average one.
Richardson, on the other hand, had a monster game against the Hurricanes. She tied her season high with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-3 from behind the arc. In what was a tremendously low-scoring 50-40 victory for the Blue Devils, the Georgia transplant had 28% of her team’s points.
On defense, Richardson has been a key piece, too. She averages 0.8 steals per game, and has proven herself to be a pest to opposing backcourts as a key piece in what has been a highly effective press orchestrated by Lawson and her staff.
After a 66-56 win against Clemson in January, Lawson commented on Richardson’s defensive influence. “Reigan has a great instinct on defense. And in our pressure, she's got just a good frame, like she's a big guard, and she's really athletic.” said Lawson, “And she can anticipate the timing, so I think she came up with some good steals.”
Obviously, the big names on this team are and will continue to be Taylor and Day-Wilson. Both are having excellent seasons, and are deserving of all the praise being heaped on them by journalists and coaches alike. But other roleplayers, and much of the bench, will be key if this team aims to make a deep NCAA tournament run.
It cannot be expected that both Day-Wilson and Taylor will be able to bring their A-games to every single matchup as the opponents get increasingly difficult in the postseason. Richardson is an excellent and efficient third option on offense, and a growingly potent threat on defense. If she can keep up the pace from her last two games, in which she scored 14 points each, Richardson will quickly become a name to know around the association. With Taylor likely on her way to the WNBA draft next year, Lawson will look to Richardson to fill that star role. Given her performances recently, there is no doubt that the transfer talent will be able to step up.
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