Before they were playing for two Southwestern Athletic Conference rivals, Dumas native Shabr’an Richardson and Pine Bluff native Alexi Rollins were spending their summers together for a weeklong basketball camp in Dumas.
“We roomed together for a basketball camp,” Rollins said. “It was called the Dumas Bobcat camp or something like that.
“I had a real nice time at those camps with her. Because of her, I kept coming back every year. She is a real nice person to be around.”
Richardson’s aunt, Dumas head coach Glory Slater, hosts the camp. The two would room together for a week, forming a tightly knit bond.
“I know her very well,” Richardson said. “We got close over the years.
“It was just a camp my aunt does every summer. We would work on our fundamentals and we did various drills and we just connected.”
Rollins, who played for Watson Chapel at the time, found out about the camp through her dad, Bruce.
When Bruce Rollins found out Slater was still coaching and hosting the camp, he immediately signed up his daughter.
“She just wanted to get better,” Richardson said of Rollins. “She picked up some drills and had fun with it.”
“I liked her auntie a lot,” Rollins said. “My dad played basketball before I was born and her auntie remembered my dad.
“Getting coached under somebody that knew my dad made it extra special.”
Rollins said she looked forward to the camps every year.
“It was nice because I knew somebody and I was not going down there by myself,” Rollins said.
Richardson is now a sophomore for the women’s basketball team at Alabama A&M. She has played in 12 games this year and averages 4.6 points per game as well as 3.2 rebounds. She is 16 of 35 from the floor and has only started in one game.
Against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 22, Richardson led A&M with six rebounds.
“Coming off the bench, I have to bring energy,” Richardson said. “It is something my coach expects me to do.
“… I don’t focus on offense as much as I should, because I believe defense wins games.”
A&M is coming off a four-game losing streak including their first two SWAC games against Jackson State and Grambling State.
“We are having a pretty good season,” Richardson said. “I feel like we are trying to find ourselves as a team.
“I feel really good about going into the SWAC season.”
UAPB (1-10, 0-1 SWAC) will travel to Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday to face A&M (2-10, 0-2) beginning at 4 p.m. inside T.M. Elmore Gym.
“We haven’t really gone over the personnel, but we expect to compete,” Richardson said. “Whatever their strong point is, we plan on making it weak.”
Rollins will not travel with the team this week after having reconstructive knee surgery on Friday. She is expected to miss the rest of the season.
“I don’t know if it was the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or not, but there was a cartridge tear,” Rollins said.
The two did face each other last year and after shaking hands at the end of the game, they sat together in the stands to watch the men’s game that followed afterwards.
“I still keep in touch with her from time to time,” Rollins said. “I wrote her on Facebook a couple of months ago.”
UAPB is currently on a 10-game losing streak, not having won since its season opener against Philander Smith. The Lady Lions will face A&M on Saturday and Alabama State on Monday.
UAPB will return home on Jan. 18 to host conference opponent Southern.
“I go into every game looking to compete,” Richardson said. “We are very hungry for a win and (UAPB) is at our house.”
Richardson said UAPB is just like any other opponent.
“Even though I’m from there, it is still the same,” Richardson said. “Friends or not, we go out and compete in every game.”