It was the 2016 WNBA draft day, and Shakena Richardson—along with a crowd of family and friends—kept her eyes glued to the television. After what seemed like hours, she finally heard the Dallas Wings call her name as their 30th overall pick.
“When I saw my name pop up on the screen, I was shaking, and tears were streaming down my face,” said Richardson, who now serves as Randolph’s assistant women’s basketball coach. “I felt like my life had come full circle.”
Her journey to become the first Seton Hall University athlete to make it to the WNBA—and frankly her entire basketball career—was filled with obstacles. A top-10 nationally ranked point guard coming out of high school in Neptune, New Jersey, she played Division I basketball at both Rutgers and Florida State universities. Though recognized by both teams for her leadership skills, Richardson was plagued by injuries that prevented her from making a real impact on the court.
It was at Seton Hall University, however, where Richardson truly shined. She joined the women’s basketball team as a fifth-year graduate student and led the Pirates to their best start in program history—and their first NCAA Tournament bid. She credits her relationship with Anthony Bozzella, the head coach, as a catalyst for her success.
“I feel like as a player the one thing you want from your coaches is trust, and when you have that it gives you confidence that continues to build and even make you play better,” Richardson said. “My confidence was sky high that entire year.”
The Dallas Wings ended up cutting Richardson’s dreams short when they released her after the preseason. But Richardson didn’t give up. She went on to play professionally in Lithuania before returning to Seton Hall to serve as coordinator of basketball operations. It was there that she first got a taste of the coaching bug.
“Shakena isn’t a typical, pampered, high-level Division I talent,” said Randolph’s head women’s basketball coach Steve Lanpher. “She is humble and doesn’t shy away from hard work. She has the chance to be a special collegiate coach, and I’m glad she’s joined me here at Randolph.”
Under Lanpher’s tutelage, Richardson is gaining valuable experience in almost every aspect of the game, from helping players develop their skills in practice to coordinating travel logistics and recruiting. Most of all, though, she has enjoyed forging relationships with and being a mentor to those on the team.
“I want to work for a good program and be surrounded by good people like I am here,” Richardson said. “Right now I’m just focusing on learning as much as I can and helping the players on this team grow. When I see them do the things I taught them in games and see that I’m having a positive impact on their lives, that’s a win for me.”