Little did Marissa Richards know when she decided to take up basketball in Grade 5 where it would lead her.
“My sister (Keanna) was playing and I thought it looked like fun,” said the 15-year-old Hunting Hills student.
“Once I started playing I really got into it and kept at it. I didn’t play in Grade 6 but got back into it in Grade 7.”
Five years later Richards is one of the premier U15 female players in the province as she was named to Team Alberta to compete in the nationals, Aug. 6-12 in Fredericton, N.B.
Marissa drew the attention of the provincial head coach Nate McKibbon while attending the provincial Shooting Stars competition in Calgary with her sister, who is entering Grade 12 at Hunting Hills.
“It was a chance to showcase our talents,” explained Marissa. “We were divided into separate teams in our age group and played games. I was named MVP in a game and after Nate talked with me about trying out for the provincial team.”
It also didn’t hurt that RDC Queens head coach and Queens Club director Ken King is an assistant with the provincial team.
King didn’t know much about Richards prior to this season, but was immediately impressed.
“The first time I saw her I could see the potential,” he said. “She’s very athletic and a hard-worker. She’s quick and has the skills she just needs to continue to develop.”
King believes Richards, who is listed at five-foot-seven and plays guard and wing, will see her share of floor time with the provincial team.
“I believe she will play a lot as long as she continues to work hard.”
Richards doesn’t know how much she’ll play but is excited about “playing with different players” and attending the nationals in New Brunswick.
“That will be exciting … something I’m looking forward to.”
Richards played with the Hunting Hills Grade 9 team this past season and credits her coaches and those with the club team — Kelsey Lalor and King — with her development.
“The first two years of club I played with the Heat then this last year with the Queens,” she explained. “It certainly helped. Being with the club we got a chance to practice more with good coaching.”
Marissa played point guard when she first got into the game, which she says helped in developing her game.
“I played mostly wing now but it helped in my ball handling and all-around game.”
She feels she has the outside shot to play the wing, but also likes to drive.
Richards is a multi-sport athlete, playing volleyball, badminton and competing in track and field in school. She also plans on taking up team handball in Grade 10.
“My sister is with the provincial team handball team and I would like to try it next year,” added Marissa. who plays the left side in volleyball and hopes to play with the Hunting Hills senior team this fall, along with the senior basketball team.
“I hope to make the senior (basketball) team to get a chance to play with my sister for one year,” she said. “We did play together when I was in Grade 7 and this year in club.”
Although she still has three years before graduation she hopes to continue on in basketball at either the college or university level.
“That’s my goal for sure,” she said.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org