By Mike DeSanto
Only three more games and an Atlantic 10 tournament stand between senior guard Imani Outlaw and graduate forward Gabby Richmond and the end of their collegiate basketball careers.
For Outlaw, the end of her collegiate career means the end of a major chapter of her life as a whole, dating back to when she was young.
“Basketball has been a huge part of my life for a long time,” Outlaw said. “Then being able to come here and play at the Division I level has been a great experience. I owe everything to this program.”
Richmond said she has changed since coming to St. Bonaventure University five years ago, maturing over her time in the women’s basketball program.
“This program has changed me into a better person, I would say,” Richmond said. “It has given me discipline, it has taught me the value of work ethic, it has just taught me the value of working hard and what discipline can do. It can go the wrong way or the right way, so it has instilled in me life lessons and life traits that I can use forever.”
But the value of the program for the players is a part of a two-way street. Just as the program can affect the players, those same players can have effects on the program as a whole. Bonnies Head Coach Jesse Fleming, who inherited a roster that featured Outlaw and Richmond as the players who had been at St. Bonaventure the longest, talked about how the two upperclassmen have influenced the program while at the university.
“Gabby came in this summer, when I first got here, and I thought it was important for her to buy into what we were trying to do because she has had the most experience in the program,” Fleming said. “So Gabby meant a lot because she did buy in right away, like Gabby was winning sprints this summer, and she set the tone right away of not resting on her laurels, so that meant everything to me. Imani is definitely more of the off-court stuff. Imani is the most positive kid on the team—the one leading the cheers before the game, I think Imani means a lot because of the spirit and the positive attitude that she brings to the program.”
Fleming said he has seen both Outlaw and Richmond grow not only as players on the court, but also as people off the court.
“I have said this one through 12 on this team: they are fantastic people,” Fleming said. “You can joke with them, but then they know when it is time to get serious and get after it. They are great in the classroom, they work hard, [and] they are just positive kids. I have always said this, but I was just very fortunate for the people I came in to and I have been so pleased with the quality of our people, and that starts with our seniors.”
Both players shared a memory, in the form of a saying, which has meant a lot to them both over their time as Bonnies.
“Me and Gabby’s motto this year was: ‘living our life like it’s golden,’ if you are familiar with the Jill Scott song,” Outlaw said. “So off the court, we have just been doing everything we have wanted to do as people.”
Outlaw currently plans to attend graduate school following her graduation in May, possibly staying at Bonaventure, she said.
Meanwhile, Richmond plans to head home with her masters and hopes to work in the sports marketing field, saying sports will remain very important to her even if she is not playing.
They each had small pieces of advice they wished to give to their teammates before they leave. Outlaw said everyone on the team needs to use their time wisely, since they won’t always have time on their side.
“For the freshman, cherish every moment, every experience, because it goes by so fast. I know everyone says that, but it truly goes by so fast,” Outlaw said. “To everyone else, time is ticking, so just live every moment to the fullest.”
Richmond told her teammates to continue to build upon the work they have already done and continue progressing.
“Work hard, keep the culture, and they know what that means,” Richmond said. “It is going to take a lot of rebuilding and it is not just going to happen overnight. They have to put in the work. Matea [and] Mariah, you are the leaders, the captains, so they really need to step up. Live with no regrets.”