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Eric Sondheimer

A playmaker just like dear old Dad

March 17, 2007|Eric Sondheimer

During one of their one-on-one basketball duels late last summer, Bree Richardson thought for a brief moment that her father, Pooh, was going down.

Then reality struck big time.

"He completely destroyed me," she said. "He'll let me start off with the ball. I'll think I'm all cool, then when he gets the ball, I'll never touch it again. He makes every shot."

Pooh Richardson, a first-round draft choice from UCLA by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1990, won't give his 5-foot-7 sophomore daughter any sympathy.

"I would never let her beat me," he says.

Yes, Bree is going to have to earn it, just as she did in becoming a freshman starter at West Hollywood Pacific Hills last season.

Now she's the captain, the point guard and the leading scorer for a girls' team that is one victory away from reaching the state Division V championship game for the third consecutive season.

The Bruins (29-5) face San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (22-9) at 1 p.m. today at Cal State Fullerton in the Southern California Regional Division V final.

Richardson, who celebrated her 16th birthday on Tuesday, is averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 assists and 3.5 steals, and has made 35 three-pointers. She has a 3.8 grade-point average and shows occasional flash, just as her father did when he became the Pacific 10 Conference's all-time assists leader at UCLA.

"He does help me a lot," Richardson said. "He tells me the little hints you wouldn't know unless you've been in that position. He tells me what to watch out for, and when he comes to my games, he'll sit quietly in the stands almost to the point he's not paying attention. Then he'll give me a complete rundown."

But Richardson has another supporter -- her mother, Laura Brown, a former high school cheerleader with whom she lives.

"She makes sure I have no stress on game days," Richardson said. "She gives me pep talks. She's my No. 1 fan."

Pacific Hills Coach Tony Jimenez has come to rely on the maturing Richardson to serve as his team's court leader.

"She's our orchestrator," he said. "She takes command of everything."

Richardson struggled in last year's 48-42 state championship game loss to Los Altos Hills Pinewood at Arco Arena in Sacramento, but the experience helped prepare her for this season, and beyond.

"I learned it's a completely different level of basketball," she said. "No matter what, you have to play through it. I did what I could, the little things, hustling to the ball, setting back screens."

What her father admires is her commitment to succeed in the sport.

"One of the key things is you have to love it," he said. "It takes so much of your time. She's developed that [point guard] mentality, and it's a beautiful thing to see. As a point guard, you have to be unselfish, demanding and share."

Added Bree: "In my eyes, a good point guard isn't about scoring. It's being the easiest possible player to play with. As long as I do my part, everybody will do theirs."

As for comparisons with her father, a Philadelphia native who retired from the NBA after 10 seasons, Richardson said, "It's in me. It's in my blood. My dad's character comes out a lot. My dad is kind of a goofball. He has a lot of fun. He does a lot of silly things. He's flashy. It can be me."

But Richardson makes it clear she doesn't want her father's success to be the force behind doors opening.

"I don't want to just have that be the reason why I go to the next level," she said. "I want to make a name for myself."

Now, if only Pooh could take it upon himself to have an off shooting day against his daughter.

"It's ridiculous," she said. "He'll give me a three-point lead if we're playing to five and still win. I think I'll be able to beat him next year. I'm determined."


Eric Sondheimer can be reached at

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