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Huskers Begin Busy Stretch with Northwestern
If you think Doc Sadler was surprised last Thursday night when Brandon Richardson found a shooting groove and stayed in it, you should have been in Blanche Little's living room in Chesapeake, Va.
Brandon's ever-encouraging grandma screamed and she stomped. She clapped her hands so hard that they hurt. Every time the ball launched from her grandson's right hand, she said a little prayer, and after every one dropped through the net - 9 bulls-eye shots in 10 attempts, including six 3-pointers - Blanche Little couldn't resist asking questions she's been keeping to herself for years: "Why have you waited so long? What have you been waiting for?"
She asked those questions after watching "B-Rich" score a career-high 25 points, snare six rebounds and do what he always does best - hand out five assists - in Nebraska's 79-73 win in a nationally televised game at Iowa.
For Grandma Blanche, watching Brandon shoot lights out was the basketball equivalent of a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. The amazing thing about the metamorphosis was watching it with one daughter, Deidre Hyman, in Virginia, and staying connected with another daughter, Denise Richardson, Brandon's mom, in Los Angeles.
Never have their fingers flown so fast while texting. Back-and-forth they went, sweating out every shot and wondering if the tide was about to turn on Nebraska's season.
"Did you see that?" Grandma would ask.
"Yeh!" Brandon's mom would text back.
"We're behind. What do we do now?" Grandma asked.
"Are you praying?" her daughter asked.
"Yes I am," she replied.
"Good. I am, too," B-Rich's mom said.
B-Rich Delivered When He Was Needed Most
The puzzling questions following Richardson's career-best game managed to surface because B-Rich's mom, dad, grandma, brother, aunts, uncles and six cousins all knew there was a scoring explosion lurking inside B-Rich's mind, body and soul, and somehow, Grandma Blanche thought this was it. This was the time because Nebraska never needed him more in their first season in the Big Ten Conference.
"I was telling someone the other day that I never show favoritism with my four children or my seven grandchildren, but Brandon ... well, he's one in a million," she said. "You could not meet a person more upbeat and upfront. He's been raised with a Christian background, and you will never know when he's down because he's always smiling. He cares more about his team and never takes credit for himself. To him, it's always 'us' and never 'me'. He brings so much energy every time he steps out on that court."
His grandma says B-Rich fits his nickname because he's truly someone who believes in one of her favorite phrases: "Be rich in whatever you endeavor."
Grandma and grandson both know where that mindset comes from - her late husband and his late grandfather, Nathaniel Little Sr., a.k.a. "EatMo", a man who lived on the East Coast and had a daughter and family on the West Coast. "My husband passed 11 years ago, but he and Brandon always had a very tight bond between them. Even now, I tell him to go out there and play for EatMo because he's out there watching, too."
Richardson's rock-solid foundation was formed in the parks and on the beaches of Virginia while growing up. "My husband wanted all of his grandchildren to know each other, so from the time those boys (B-Rich and brother Trey) were born in California, they would spend every summer with us here in Virginia. They would come whenever school ended there and go back whenever school started back up. We had a four-week timeshare on the beach, and we have nothing but really pleasant memories because all seven grandchildren really got to know each other."
Brandon Remembers Like It Was Yesterday
On Wednesday, before leaving on the team flight to Chicago for Thursday night's Big Ten game at Northwestern, B-Rich discussed his close relationship with his grandma and the summers he spent living with grandparents and playing with cousins. "I remember it like it was yesterday," Brandon said. "All of us would have a good time every day, whether we were swimming, boating or anything else. Those times were amazing, and we just enjoyed being around each other. I loved every bit of it.
"Since my grandfather passed, I've always tried to be a better grandson for my grandma. I call her and check up on her because she's one of the biggest supporters I've ever had and one of the strongest people you will ever meet in your life. She always has that positive outlook. She is never down about anything, and even if she was, you would never see it."
If Grandma Blanche doesn't have something nice to say, she doesn't say anything. Still, she sends texts after almost every game, win or lose. Usually, it's something like "It's your game ... play it!" or "You know what you have to do ... do it!" Following close losses, she'll text: "You played hard, and it showed. Keep it up!"
Sometimes the Sounds of Silence are Best
Grandma Blanche remembers only one time when she was literally speechless, and that was Nebraska's Saturday night blowout loss to Ohio State, preceding her grandson's big game at Iowa.
"I remember thinking to myself: 'What do I say after that one?' So I didn't say anything. I waited two more days and then started to pump him up for the next game like I always do."
It worked. After shooting only 14 times in his previous four games, Richardon became Nebraska's first-ever Big Ten Player of the Week (sharing that honor with Michigan State's Draymond Green). He also became the first Husker to win a conference player-of-the-week award since Alecs Maric earned a Big 12 honor four years ago this weekend.
Sadler has begged Richardson to shoot. "I promise you," Nebraska's head coach said. "He's been encouraged to shoot every shot that he's been open for in the last five years."
Tonight, when the NU vs. NU game begins on ESPN2, Grandma Blanche will do what she always does. She will turn on the TV and keep the radio by her side. She will refuse to answer the phone and camp out in her favorite chair from the minute the game starts until the second it ends. Her only intrusion will be a text-only connection with Brandon's mom in LA.
"Oh my gosh," she said. "After watching his game of a lifetime, I think he needs to shoot because his team needs him to shoot."
B-Rich's Shooting a More Distinct Possibility
Since B-Rich is one in a million, he knows basketball is not quite that simple. "I realize if I shoot the ball more, not only am I helping our team, but I'm making the defense respect what I can do," he said. "If I don't do that, I'm not doing my job, so I've taken all of that into consideration, and we'll see how it all plays out."
One thing is certain. Whatever happens, there will be unparalleled belief and staunch support. "One thing I can say about B-Rich," his grandma said, "is he has an entire family behind him 100 percent because that's the kind of family we are."
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