By Rick White
Elizabeth Richards, who led Texico to three straight state titles and was a driving force in Eastern New Mexico University’s dramatic turnaround last season, has decided not to play basketball this upcoming season.
The Zias’ leading rebounder and second-leading scorer told ENMU coach Dan Buzard Wednesday that she plans to sit out the 2004-05 season because she has lost her passion for the game and wants to concentrate on academics.
He said he was caught off guard by Richards’ decision.
“She felt she wasn’t doing anybody any good because her heart wasn’t in it,” said Buzard, the 2003-04 LSC South coach of the year in his second season with the Zias. “She had said something earlier this year about (basketball) wasn’t so much fun anymore. But it didn’t really seem like a big deal.”
He said the versatile 5-foot-11 Richards will be hard to replace.
“There’s not any one player we have that can do what she does,” Buzard said. “She just has a knack for rebounding and for being at the right place at the right time. She really made some big shots and big plays for us at the end of games.”
Richards averaged 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore when the Zias rebounded from a 7-20 season two years ago to go 16-12 in 2003-04 and finished tied for second in the LSC South.
“She’s just a competitor,” Buzard said. “She never took a play off and we could always depend on her to give 100 percent.”
Richards is the second member of Texico’s three state title teams to leave the ENMU team. Guard Jennifer (Roberts) Strebeck played as a freshman but not last year.
Richards did not return messages left at her home for comment.
Buzard said recruiting a replacement for Richards so late will be difficult.
The Zias have signed a pair of guards since the season ended and were looking to add one of two post players.