SIU women's basketball standout evolves plenty since joining team
Rishonda Napier's first game for Southern Illinois didn't have much in the way of double-digit statistics.
On Nov. 13, 2012, in the season opener against Central Arkansas at home, Napier got the start and played 30 minutes, notching six points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in the Salukis' 59-46 loss.
Four years later, she finds herself high up many career lists at SIU – with high potential for growth.
Napier, SIU's well-honored senior point guard, enters the 2016-17 season in the all-time top 10 all-time at SIU in categories such as points, assists and 3-pointers.
“I am honored and humbled to be recognized among great basketball players here at SIU,” Napier told the Southeast Illinois News. “I've been blessed enough to play with some great players that I have learned from and had great relationships with. I attribute most of my success to the constant love, support and encouragement from my family.”
Before beginning her climb up the SIU charts, Napier starred at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School in Burbank, California. Being a three-time first-team all-state selection there got the attention of SIU. Napier was recruited by then-Salukis Head Coach Missy Tiber, who is now the head coach at the University of North Alabama. Upon her visit to Carbondale, “the charismatic Cartaesha Macklin convinced me to sign,” Napier said.
From there, she was named to the Missouri Valley Conference's All-Freshman Team for the 2012-13 season by ranking second among Salukis in points per game (11.3), total assists (75) and total steals (37), according to siusalukis.com. After sitting out almost all of the 2013-14 season with health concerns, Napier came back strong in 2014-15 with a first-team All-MVC season. She led the team with a 16.5-points-per-game average and led the league with an .870 free-throw percentage – a mark that ranked 18th nationally.
Last season, she again led the team in scoring at 15.5 points per contest and 510 total points, the latter number being the fifth-highest single-season point total in program history. Her 85 3-pointers were the second-most in a season for a Saluki.
Efforts like those earned her a second-straight spot on the All-MVC first team.
Napier enters this season eighth on the school's all-time points list, with 1,323, which is 456 points behind category leader Macklin. Napier is also 30 3-pointers shy of being the school's all-time leader in that category, and currently is 10th all-time in total assists.
The Salukis also have steadily increased their win totals each season while Napier has suited up for them – from five wins her first season to 17 her sophomore season to 20 last year. Adding to those numbers is what Napier is concerned with this season.
“I don't have any individual goals, but I would like for my team to win the MVC championship and play in the NCAA tournament in March,” she said.
The Salukis open the regular season Nov. 13 vs. Oklahoma at 12:30 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma. The Salukis' first home game is Murray State at 6 p.m. Nov. 17.
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