Baylor Bears' DiDi Richards optimistic about playing after scary collision

Baylor senior guard DiDi Richards said Monday that she is optimistic she will be able to play at some point this season after sustaining a spinal cord injury on Oct. 24.

Richards and teammate Moon Ursin spoke Monday, a little more than a week after Richards lost consciousness and experienced a loss of feeling in her lower legs and Ursin sustained a concussion as a result of what they described as a full-speed collision during practice.

"Every day it's getting easier, so I'm hoping, yes, there will be a season," Richards said. "I'm letting everybody know that I will be playing this season."

Baylor athletic trainer Alex Olson, who was present at the practice, said Richards lost consciousness for about a minute on the court but was lucid when transported to a local hospital after complaining off a loss of feeling in her legs.

Olson said Dallas-area neurologist Dr. Alan Martin subsequently did a "full head-to-toe evaluation" that found no abnormalities. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said that Richards sustained no lasting spinal cord damage. Although Richards still needs some support for her body weight while rehabbing, Olson said the prognosis was good for full recovery. He did not offer a specific timeline for how quickly she could return to competition.

"We don't know," Olson said. "It just goes, literally, by how she's feeling. And so we're all optimistic that she can come back this year, but there's no guarantees that's going to happen. We just take it as fast as she can go."

Ursin, who did not lose consciousness in the collision, said she continues to feel better day by day. Olson said that Ursin is currently in the third phase of the NCAA's five-phase return from concussion protocol and that there is no specific timeline for progressing to the next two phases.

Without Richards and Ursin, who is also a senior, Baylor currently has eight available players.

Richards is one of two returning starters this season for Baylor, which remains the defending national champion after winning the 2019 NCAA tournament. The reigning national and Big 12 defensive player of the year, she was expected to take on the point guard role this season.

A WNBA draft prospect, Richards said that the recent NCAA decision to grant an additional year of eligibility to all winter-sports athletes has helped her avoid trying to rush her return.

"Knowing that I can come back," Richards said, "It kind of makes it easier for me to literally take it one day at a time."