Have you ever thought about having a regular conversation with a WNBA player? Say, over coffee or just hanging out at a backyard barbecue? That’s the kind of vibe I aim for with And One — a regular series for Just Women’s Sports involving 10 questions. I ask about basketball things, of course, but also about their lives off the court so you can get to know the players of the WNBA a little bit better.
After the New York Liberty wrapped up a recent afternoon practice, DiDi Richards stepped off to the side to chat with me over the phone. She sounded as relaxed as if she had just been at the nail salon, one of her other favorite hangout spots besides the basketball court. Richards may only be in her second season in the WNBA, but she’s already made quite an impression. Her relentless defense, ability to inject her team with energy and ignite the crowd, and one-of-a-kind pregame fits have made her a fan favorite — not only in the Big Apple but across the league.
Richards’ WNBA career is just getting started after New York selected her in the second round of the 2021 draft. A hamstring injury sidelined her earlier this season and she’s had to work her way back to the court, appearing in only 13 games so far. The Liberty (13-20) have three games left this week to try to secure one of the remaining two playoff spots.
Not even two years removed from an on-court collision that left her temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, the former Baylor guard and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year is still coming into her own on the court. We talked about her goals to become a better all-around player, the Liberty’s new coaching staff under Sandy Brondello, her experience taking part in the “We Are The W” documentary and, of course, fashion.
1. What were your overall thoughts about this Liberty team heading into the season?
I mean, I was excited. You could see all of the potential on the team so I was excited to get the preseason started. Plus, me not going overseas, I was just really excited to play basketball on its own.
2. What were some of the steps you wanted to take individually in your second year in the WNBA?
Just being more of a defensive anchor, whether that’d be guarding the best player, not the best player, being able to use help principles, an on-ball defender, and to be a threat offensively. Not like the offensive threat, but just someone they can respect.
(Laughs) My entire offensive game. Shooting, actually.
3. How have you been able to get back into the groove on the court and with this team after being out for a month with an injury?
It’s still a work in progress. But it’s been helpful having a team that is as supportive as they are, whether that be my coaching staff or my teammates. They constantly encourage me and tell me that it’s my time, just keep getting comfortable and keep getting better. They’re real patient with me. So I’m very thankful for that. It’s been frustrating … to say the least.
4. The Liberty struggled in May, played well in June, were up and down in July and found a spark in your first couple of games in August. What’s the reason for the switch?
I think people forget that we have a new coach and we’re also still a young team. We have a whole new staff, a whole new offense it feels like. So it was just honestly getting accustomed to the offense and buying into the offense and into our coaches. So once we did that, it was uphill from there.
5. What does this team need to do to lock up one of those final playoff spots?
Win. We need to win (laughs). That’s the one thing we need to do.
6. What was it like being involved with and featured in the “We Are The W” documentary?
It was super special. For me being a rookie, my first year, and being able to be a part of the “We Are The W” film was kind of humbling — that I was even picked for that and thought about for that film. It was super exciting to be with Izzy (Harrison) and Angel (McCoughtry), who are well-established players. While we weren’t filming, I would definitely be picking their brains for off-the-basketball-court, on-the-basketball-court stuff, for sure.
TUNE IN to @NBATV tomorrow (6/21) at 6:30pm/ET to see the new documentary “We Are the W” 📺👀Executive produced by the W’s own Angel McCoughtry, the documentary will cover the lives of 3 players - @angel_35, @Deauzya, & @OMG_itsizzyb 👏 pic.twitter.com/9Ghwdggn89— WNBA (@WNBA) June 20, 2022
TUNE IN to @NBATV tomorrow (6/21) at 6:30pm/ET to see the new documentary “We Are the W” 📺👀Executive produced by the W’s own Angel McCoughtry, the documentary will cover the lives of 3 players - @angel_35, @Deauzya, & @OMG_itsizzyb 👏 pic.twitter.com/9Ghwdggn89
7. Who are some of your favorite fashion icons?
One of them, I think Devin Booker. He’s very minimalist, like he doesn’t do too much. He stays well within himself and he’s very, very comfortable with what he wears. So, I think him and PJ Tucker. I’m super girly and they’re super not, like — they’re them. And I think that’s kind of cool.
8. If you weren’t playing professional basketball, what would you be doing?
I’d be modeling. It’s definitely in the works. I spent my offseason trying to figure out different ways to get into that industry. So, this is my second offseason and I’m excited to see what it has to offer.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by GQ Sports (@gqsports)
A post shared by GQ Sports (@gqsports)
9. What’s something WNBA fans would be surprised to know about you or wouldn’t expect?
Um … that I’m super … I second-guess myself a lot. Like, I’m not as comfortable as I look. I don’t know why people say that (laughs). But I’m super, like, in my own head. Or for the longest time, I really didn’t feel like I was good enough. So I think that’s something that’s shocking about me or people always find it shocking.
10. Who’s the best dressed on the Liberty roster?
I can’t say myself? (Laughs)
I’m just gonna say me.
Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering the WNBA and college basketball. She also contributes to The Athletic and is the co-author of “Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League.” Follow Lyndsey on Twitter @darcangel21.