It takes a village to raise a tro- phy.
Tabatha Richardson-Smith will finish her career as Seton Hall women’s basketball’s all-time leading scorer, but basketball is a team sport. As the team’s top scorer one year ago, Richardson-Smith, better known as “Tab,” helped lead the Pirates to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade. Ultimately, their journey in the tourney was short-lived after a first-round exit at the hands of in-state rival Rutgers.
Coming into the 2015-16 campaign, All Big-East First Team performers Ka-Deidre Simmons and Daisha Simmons were out. Transfers Shakena Richardson and Aleesha Powell were in.
It was not inconceivable to believe the burden of leading this team back where it wanted to be would fall primarily on Richardson-Smith’s shoulders. But for Tab, the team’s ability to gel was no concern at all.
“We play good as individuals. But we put all of our talents to- gether and play as a team,” she said. “Shakena is a great point guard, I mean, she distributes the ball. And Leesh (Powell), you know, she finds her open shots.”
Richardson-Smith has unquestionably been a guiding factor in leading the Hall to a 23-8 record and second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. She led the team in scoring in 19 games and in rebounding in 10 contests. However, for Tab, the biggest factor that has the Pirates one win away from the round of 32 is the chemistry with her teammates de- spite playing with some of them for the first time.
“This team is great. It’s like we’ve been sisters for a lifetime. On the court we play well together, and we’re just having fun as a group.”
As far as the leadership role goes, that is also a team effort.
“Mostly, the seniors. I take a lot of credit for that, but we also have Aleesha Powell and Shakena Richardson, who just try to get the team be the best they can, play the hardest and do what’s right for the team and help the team be successful.”
Fast forward one year, and the Pirates are back in the same position they were last season. No. 8-seeded Seton Hall will tip off against No. 9-seeded Duquesne in Storrs, Conn., with three-time defending champion Connecticut presumably awaiting the winner. Richardson-Smith has elevated her scoring averages this season to 18.9 points per game from 17.8 point, and earned her own place on the All Big-East First Team.
But more is to come from the Bay City, Texas, native, according to head coach Tony Bozzella.
“She had one of her best weeks of practice in her three years here,” he said. “And I know she’s going to come forward and have a few big games in this Tournament. I truly believe that in my heart.”
Matt Zeigafuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu or on Twitter @mattzeigafuse.