By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Some highly-recruited prep basketball players like to get their choice of college out of the way to focus on their senior season.
Brittany Allen must have really wanted to make her decision. She made her choice prior to her junior campaign.
Allen, a 5-8 junior guard, recently committed verbally to play college basketball at Winthrop, a Division I school that plays in the Big South Conference.
“It was kind of random, I went there, I really loved the school and the coaches and I really wanted to commit my junior year so a lot of pressure is gone now,” Allen said. “I am just looking forward to it and glad I have the opportunity to play there.”
Now Allen can focus on what matters most right now, which is getting Richlands back to Richmond and a shot at a Group AA, Division 3 state championship.
That state semifinal appearance last year was nice, but not good enough.
“Hopefully farther,” said Allen, of the ultimate goal for the season ahead. “We just have to take one game at a time and really concentrate.”
Richlands had a stellar season in 2012, finishing 18-10 and winning the Region IV championship for a second straight year. The Blues then got one step further from 2011, defeating Rustburg in the Division 3 state quarterfinals, and eventually lost 42-34 in the state semifinals to Liberty-Bealeton.
Four starters back from that team, and expectations are just has high as they were last season.
“We are really excited, we are looking forward to the season,” Allen said.
“We have worked hard and we have some goals we are looking forward to accomplishing.”
Richlands has a roster of nine, and Allen is confident everyone will contribute to another successful season.
“We definitely are experienced,” Allen said. “Every person has an important role to play and if we all play them then we have a great chance.”
Allen spent her summer working on her game, which is what she has done annually since she was in fifth grade and started playing AAU and travel ball with Richlands’ girls hoops coach Dennis Palmer.
She spent last summer after her freshman season working on drive to the hole. She added another goal for this offseason.
“I have played all summer really working on my left hand more and I have gotten a lot better with it,” Allen said.
It’s that type of determination, combined with plenty of talent, that has Allen as one of the area’s best players, and with a future at the Division I level.
“She does a lot of good things well,” said Palmer, in his second season as the Richlands girls coach. “She can create shots on her own, if she doesn’t have a good shot she can drive the ball, she is quick.
“I probably stay on her more than I do anybody because of that fact.”
Allen was first seen by Winthrop coaches in July at a camp in Atlanta. Their coached contacted Palmer, and he put them in touch with Allen and she went for a visit the school located in Rock Hill, S.C.
“I went to junior day and I went to another game and they offered me there,” Allen said.
Winthrop is known for basketball, which is a nice change for Allen, who attends a school and lives in a town that eats and breathes football.
“I guess it is a basketball school, Richlands is mostly about football so it is a great change,” Allen said. “I love the coaches, the players, just the school in general, I just felt like it’s home.”
Richlands, which went a whole season without a win not all that long ago, has enjoyed recent success, but the Lady Blues are still seeking their first Southwest District, a crown which has belonged to Carroll County for years.
Winning that title is definitely a goal for Allen and friends, especially since the SWD will cease to exist after this season.
“We would love to win district,” Allen said. “They always beat us out, but I feel like we have a good chance this year if we play our game.
“This would be the perfect year to do it. If we are going to do it, let’s do it now.”
Richlands was able to win the first regional title in school history two years ago, defeating Patrick County before dropping a lopsided affair to Robert E. Lee-Staunton in the state quarterfinals.
The Lady Blues were determined to get back to that point, and make amends with a better performance, and they left Virginia High’s Bearcat Den with a 68-64 win over Rustburg.
“It was definitely a great experience,” Allen said. “We wanted (the region) again last year because we won my freshman year too so we knew what it was like and I think we prepared ourselves better.
“I think we knew what it was like coming into it and this year is only going to be more experience so I feel like we are looking forward to it. I just want to be able to play for my team the best that I can and help in whatever way I can.”
The ultimate goal is to return to Richmond, get to final game and return with the championship trophy.
“I feel like we will definitely be more prepared and more experienced,” Allen said. “We know what we will be going into and I think we will be way more ready this year.”
As for Allen, her college commitment has been made. She was asked if another college came calling, which will probably happen in the next two years, what she might do.
Her mind is made up.
“I will still go to Winthrop,” said Allen, with a smile.
—Contact Brian Woodson