Deauzya “DiDi” Richards is one of the nation’s top girls basketball recruits. A 6-foot-1 native of Cypress, near Houston, she’s a five-star Baylor signee who hopes to spur on coach Kim Mulkey’s next dominant phase.
Before she gets there she has a date in Chicago for the McDonald’s All American girls basketball game that she’s plenty excited about.
“I was very excited when I learned I was a McDonald’s All American,” Richards told USA TODAY from her stop on the McDonalds All American Hometown Heroes tour, presented by American Family Insurance. “It was crazy. My stomach just flipped. I’m happy I finally get to be in the game instead of watching it.”
The honor was a far cry from Richards’ reluctant beginnings in the sport. In fact, cheerleading and gymnastics were her sports of choice growing up, before a sudden growth spurt in middle school made basketball feel like an inevitability. Now, five years later, on her own 18th birthday, she’s being celebrated as one of the nation’s best at her chosen sport.
“Eighteen years ago I don’t think anyone thought I would be playing basketball or certainly playing in the McDonald’s All-American game,” Richards said, referring to her birth. “All my family members think it’s awkward that I play basketball because I never liked sports. I really started taking it seriously finally in sixth or seventh grade when I saw I was growing. I really grew in seventh grade, six or seven inches that summer, so I felt I couldn’t do anything else because I was so tall.”
While Richards is excited about playing in the game, she’s even more eager to take part in the events around it, particularly spending time with children at the Ronald McDonald House and connecting with other young basketball players. The Baylor signee — who said her relationship with Mulkey was the deciding factor in her college choice — is supremely confident in her own choices and those she surrounds herself with, positive traits which she can pass on when meeting younger fans.
While Richards is happy that the recruiting “craziness” is over, she’s continued to hear others question whether Baylor is a positive choice for her future in the aftermath of the rape scandal that has enveloped the school’s football program. Richards leans on her own decision making and the quality of players in the women’s basketball program as fundamental reasons why Baylor is still the right place for her.
“The scandal at Baylor didn’t change my mind because it’s all about the position you put yourself in and surround yourself with,” she said. “I feel like I’m smart enough to make sure I’m not at risk.”
For now, she’s focused on trying to bring a first state title to Cypress Ranch. Her team earned the first girls basketball district title in school history on Tuesday evening, a stepping stone on the way to a much larger goal, not unlike the one she’s accomplished as a McDonald’s All American.
On to Chicago then, but not before at least one pit stop for some good old fashioned Tex Mex.
“For my birthday? I’m going to go eat some Mexican food, because that’s my favorite ever,” Richards said. “I get queso for an appetizer and then fajitas or beef quesadilla. It’s the best.”