By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The news of Mary Richardson inking a letter of intent on National Signing Day on the campus of Munford High School was music to the ears of her parents Trenna and Tony.
But it was about four years ago a strange note was struck for Tony when he learned the extra-curricular activity his third child wanted to pursue once she enrolled into MHS.
Prior to Mary entering high school, her older siblings Toni and Caleb paved a way and made their mark in the band traveling to Nationals and winning various competitions.
“Really I wanted all my kids to be in the band,” Tony acknowledged. “I prefer the band. Her mother and Mary pulled a fast one on me. They turned in her band instrument and didn’t tell me. Mary told her mother, ‘I want to do sports. I don’t want to play in the band.’
“As long as she works hard, its fine with me,” he continued. “She has the potential to be great (in basketball). She has to take it to the next step to progress further. The band taught them how to work together as a team and persevere. That’s what I really like about the band. But the youngest two didn’t want to play in the band. Mary threw a fast one on me. “
Mary’s path has led her to signing with Dyersburg State Community College to play for Lady Eagles Head Coach Charles Taylor.
Band helped her older siblings achieve success with Toni now teaching at Munford Middle School and Caleb about to graduate from UT-Martin with a degree in Criminal Justice.
The youngest Richardson, Hannah is currently a cheerleader at Covington High School. For Mary sticking with Lady Cougars basketball and playing AAU paved the way to reaching the next level.
“It feels great,” she said. “I am excited to start. It’s been a great journey. We’ve had some struggles with starting freshmen and everything. But I still love the vibe here and all the energy everybody’s giving and how hard we work.”
Richardson is the only senior on Steve Poindexter’s Lady Cougar squad. When she joined the team as a freshman, Munford featured players like upperclassmen Johnna Jones, Shania Johnson, Deja Potter, De’Asha Banks and Gabby Crawford.
“It was a long time ago,” Mary said. “We had a lot of chemistry back then and everybody worked so well together. I learned that when a team plays together it’s good. It’s good when everybody likes each other and it helps on the court.”
Mary’s first two seasons ended with Sub-State appearances and a Region 7-3A championship as a freshman. During those seasons, Richardson would make the occasional appearance to the court in a relief role.l
“It’s a season for everything,” Trenna said. “This was kind of like her season to sit on the sideline and learn things and just watch those who were more experienced. Then take that and place that into your own game. Learning that teamwork and how important it is. Learn that you’ll be the person in the middle shining. Then learn that you’re going to be on the sideline just learning. Your patience will pay off.”
Entering her junior season Poindexter began to lean on Richardson and her fellow backcourt mate Maiya Reed. The duo had to shoulder the burden have helping younger players adjust to the speed of Class 3A varsity basketball.
That perseverance and that not giving up, is not being a quitter,” Trenna noted. “Still striving through adversity and challenges, she will be able to take that type of environment and still come out good.”
Mary has embraced her role as leader and looks forward to doing something special to end her Lady Cougar tenure.
“It’s been a lot of weight on my shoulders trying to lead a team,” she acknowledged, “but it’s going pretty well. If we win our next few games we could be third in the district and it can set up a run.”
Mary said her younger teammates like Gabby Lincoln, Abby Haun, Brezia Cooper and Ciara Spence have gone beyond expectations in their development. She said it have to take the next level in order to beat the likes of Brighton, Dyer County and Hardin County.
“Stepping up, they’ve been taking on the challenge pretty well,” she said. “They’ve been taking on a bunch of other juniors and seniors. For freshmen I think they’re going pretty good.”
Next year Mary will be the freshman again but in the uniform of the Lady Eagles. Coach Todd is entering his second year as the leader of DSCC. He has two years of experience as an assistant coach to the DSCC men’s program under the direction of athletic director and head men’s basketball coach Alan Barnett. Coach Charles is no stranger to the program beginning his college career as the starting point guard for the DSCC Eagles back in 2000.
“I love the coach and I meet the team,” Mary said. “It’s like a big family and I love the energy there.”
Poindexter noted Mary has a lot of potential that Dyersburg can tap into starting next year. Trenna agreed that Mary’s best days are still ahead of her.
“With the right guidance and coaching she could be great at basketball,” she said. “As far as academics she’s always been smart. I’m excited for her to start at community college so she can get her start and foundation at the same time while playing ball. I think she’s going to go really far.”
Tony said he is glad basketball was able to give his daughter a foundation similar to band.
“She had to learn how to fit in,” he noted. “I think probably when she was younger she learned to be a little bit more progressive. Now that you are the senior, you have to be a leader.”
Tony described his daughter’s basketball potential as a diamond ready to be polished. And her time and maturing at Munford has given Dyersburg a precious jewel.
“The fact that she’s one senior on the team lets you know there were some challenges,” he said. “Girls are different from guys when it comes to basketball. Things that worked for us when I was in high school, you have to adjust for them. Just one way won’t work. Sometimes when there is something going on, you can’t approach things the same way every time.
“What it has taught Mary, that Mary has persevered,” Tony concluded. “A lot of kids started off with Mary. But Mary made it through. Out of all of this, the opportunity came because she persevered and came through. She really wanted to play basketball.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.