BY JEFF FALK
Oh, give me a home
Where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day
Indeed, Carly Richardson has found a new home. And while that home is closer to Lewisburg than it is ‘On The Range’, it appears that there are nothing but encouraging words and blue skies ahead for her.
Richardson, Palmyra High School’s senior basketball star, recently settled on Division One Bucknell University as the place to continue her athletic and academic pursuits. It turned out to be a difficult decision for Richardson, not because her heart wasn’t captured by Bucknell, but because she understood the full ramifications of a decision that will affect the rest of her life.
During the 2012-13 campaign, Richardson averaged 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per outing, and canned 49 three-pointers for the Cougars. With that, she earned third-team all-state honors in Class AAA.
“I definitely knew it was the place I wanted to be,” said Richardson. “The scary thing was being a year away from college and deciding where I wanted to be the next four years. It kind of was a difficult decision. It’s four years, and a lot of money.”
Money which will not be coming out of Richardson’s pocket. Through her Division One grant-in-aid, the costs of Richardson’s tuition, books, living expenses and meals will be picked up by the Patriot League representative.
When push ultimately came to shove, Richardson picked Bucknell over two other Patriot League members, Lafayette and Lehigh. Bucknell is located in Lewisburg, about an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Palmyra.
“The one thing I knew from a young age is that I wanted to play Division One basketball,” said Richardson. “I wanted to be close to home. I wanted to allow my parents an opportunity to come see me play. And I wanted it to be a short drive if I wanted to come home. I wanted to get a higher education and a degree from a reputable institution, and Bucknell, Lehigh and Lafayette all fit that bill.
“Ultimately, it came down to Bucknell and Lehigh,” Richardson continued. “Being with the girls, I saw myself fitting in just a little bit better at Bucknell. And with all the basketball things being equal, I wanted to attend the school where I felt most comfortable.”
“I’m extremely happy with the choice,” said Ron Berman, Richardson’s head coach at Palmyra. “It’s a great college, and it’s close enough for us to see her play.
“This past off-season, Carly was lucky in that Lafayette made an offer and left it on the table,” Berman added. “She had a lot of offers from the Patriot League level. But it appeared that Bucknell was her first choice, and it had been for a while.”
Richardson said that in no way was it her initial intent to put the college decision behind her before the start of her senior year and season. But now that it is, she’s glad she did.
“I am in no way rushing my senior season,” said Richardson. “Being a part of the Palmyra girls’ basketball program goes beyond words. The school support, the community support, it’s like no other. But I’m definitely anxious to go on to the next level and the next challenge.
“In no way did I feel rushed,” added Richardson. “I wanted to put myself in a position where I had it taken care of. I don’t think a lot would’ve changed. More than anything, it was a big stress reliever. It’s a sigh of relief and now I can enjoy my sport.”
By Berman, Richardson has been asked to play an inside position to fortify the Cougars’ rebounding. But once at Bucknell, the 5-11 Richardson is projected to be moved to more of a small forward or wing spot, where her deadly shooting eye can be maximized.
“The offense is similar to the one we run at Palmyra, and there really are no designated positions,” said Richardson. “Versatility is very important, and I consider myself a very versatile player. In terms of positions, I’ll probably be playing either the Two (shooting guard) or Three (small forward). I’ll certainly do whatever coach asks me to do. When you get to the Division One college level, the girls who are playing inside are 6-3 or 6-4, and have 50 pounds on me.
“But I definitely think I have to improve my ball handling,” Richardson added. “And the confidence in my ball handling.”
“Obviously the jump to Division One is big,” said Berman. “You are talking about 6-3 players or bigger. She’s probably going to be playing an off-guard or a swing position. She has to work on her overall foot speed and her defense. And I’d like to see her ball handling improve. I think it’s a matter of confidence.”
If you’ve discerned that Richardson is a very intelligent young lady, you’re spot on.
As a junior, Richardson was ranked fifth in Palmyra’s 195-member Class of 2014. In fact, Richardson is so smart and flexible that she’s still considering a possible college major, something in the math and science field or neuroscience or education.
“I think in the seventh grade when I made the freshman basketball I decided I wanted to play basketball in college,” said Richardson. “It was like, ‘Hey, I really like this.’ I figured out, ‘Oh my gosh, I can go to college to play basketball.’ And the more I thought about it, the more it came into my mind.”
“She understands the game,” said Berman. “She has a lot of things going for her. She’s going to make a great teammate. I’d be shocked if she didn’t have an impact on that program down the road.”
Last season, Richardson led the Cougars to a third straight Mid-Penn Keystone Division championship, a Mid-Penn Conference title, a District Three Class AAA crown, the second round of the PIAA tournament and a 29-1 overall record.
“It was great,” said Richardson. “It was awesome. But it’s something in the past. It was a great memory. I think it’s important for us to realize that this season is a completely blank slate, and that it can be written either way.”