As a child, Dean Richey didn’t realize he was poor, even when living in a camper with his grandmother.
But by the time he became a troubled adolescent, Richey knew something wasn’t right with his life, and that something started with a mother who had given birth at age 16 and a father who had never been in his life.
Seeing Richey as he is now, as a well-adjusted adult and 6-foot-5 sophomore leader on the Community Colleges of Spokane men’s basketball team, it’s clear that something dramatic happened to him in the last four years.
Put simply, other families took Richey in as one of their own, allowing him to mend his rift with his mother and become the person that others can admire.
“I would never change one hardship, one obstacle,” Richey said. “I would never change anything I’ve ever been through in my life, because I’ve seen so many walks of life. … I’m not saying I’m a great person, but I understand life and I understand anything I could go through.”
“Dean’s going to take this and he’s going to run with it,” CCS coach Jeremy Groth said. … “When it’s all said and done, Dean’s story is going to be a great story, as far as getting a degree at the end and bettering his own situation.”
Richey doesn’t fault his mother, Fawn, because he knows the two of them basically grew up together. As a child, Richey was shuttled between his mother and grandmother, Aurellia, whom he calls his “superhero.” Money was tight, food was scarce, and there was no male figure to stand up to Richey when his middle-school friends offered cigarettes, alcohol and reckless diversions.
Richey said he failed two classes as a freshman at Lewis and Clark. His mom kicked him out of the house, leading him to move in with his grandmother and transfer to Rogers.
Richey moved back and returned to LC as a sophomore, but the arguments continued. He said his mom “rightfully” kicked him out again, but this time fate dealt Richey a winning hand.
Richey was invited to move in with the Damon family, Clay and Ann, whose son Austin was his friend and LC basketball teammate.
“That was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me … because they gave me the fundamental home structure that I never had and always needed,” Richey said. “I didn’t know what it was like to not have fighting at home.”
When Austin left for college, Richey moved in with Kelly and Sally Stopher, who continue to offer him their home. Kelly had been Richey’s AAU coach and the person who encouraged him when playing time at LC was infrequent. Despite his solid freshman numbers at CCS last season (12.9 points, 4.65 rebounds and 3.23 assists per game), Richey said he rarely played as a junior at LC.
Richey said Groth actively recruited him out of AAU fall league, where he “played free and had fun.”
“You could just tell from watching Dean in high school that he had some of that ‘it’ factor that some good players really have,” Groth said. “Dean was really competitive, he wanted to win, he got his teammates involved and he was just a joy to watch.”
Now Richey is at the best point of his life, set up to continue his basketball at a four-year school and get a degree. He continues to improve his life, including his relationship with his mother, who now has two young children and a fiance.
“Living with the Stophers and Damons really improved my relationship with my mom because it gave me a healthy distance and helped me grow,” Richey said … “Now she knows what she’s doing. When it was me and her, she didn’t have any help from anybody.”
Richey recently broke a knuckle on his right hand while dunking after practice. He hopes to be fully healed by the Sasquatch’s Nov. 25 opener at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana.
Until Richey returns, the Sasquatch may start five freshmen: 6-5 wing/post Race Martin of Pullman; 6-2 point guard Kage Sobotta, Clarkston; 6-1 guard Jacob DeVries; 6-3 wing Jake Love, West Valley High; and 6-7 Dalton Patchen, Colton.
“Last year we had Qwinn Hanson, one of the best big guys in our NWAC region, and this year we’ll have some inside presence, for sure, but we’re really guard-heavy this year,” Groth said. “We just have more pieces this year, guys who can really drive and guys who can shoot it.”
The other returning sophomore, besides Richey, is 5-11 guard Chase McDuffie of North Central High, last year’s back-up point guard. This year’s projected starting point guard, Paris Estrada, tore his anterior cruciate ligament on the first play of the first scrimmage this year.
“That’s not going to stop us, though,” Groth said. “Obviously, we’re going to miss (Estrada) a lot, but it gives an opportunity for other guys to step up. We’re going to find other ways to get it done.”
Knee problems also hit the Sasquatch women, who have lost sisters Bianca and Jennifer Gonzales and 5-4 guard Briana King of NC.
Bianca, a 5-3 guard, started last year until injuring her knee before conference play. She and King will redshirt. Jennifer, a 5-7 wing, is questionable after hurting her knee during the first day of technique class.
CCS returns part-time starters Karlee Martin, a 5-5 guard from Almira/Coulee-Hartline, and 5-6 guard Emily Schramm. The Sasquatch picked up Wenatchee Valley transfer Amanda Bearmedicine, a 5-9 forward.
The Sasquatch must replace NWAC Player of the Year Riley Holsinger, who averaged 22 points per game and moved on to Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California.
“We’re a little thin at the post, but we’re pretty strong at wing,” 26th-year coach Bruce Johnson said. “We probably have a little bit better flow and balance.”
First-year head coach Corey Symons, a 10-year assistant with the Cardinals, replaces Jared Phay, who accepted the top position at Scenic West Athletic Conference rival College of Southern Idaho.
“Coach Phay did a great job,” Symons said. “We’ve had some really great teams.”
The Cardinals’ returning starters are former Rainier Beach High teammates Jordan King, a 6-4 guard, and 6-10 center Fuquan Niles. Another ex-Rainier Beach player, 5-8 point guard Will Dorsey, started last year but will redshirt after suffering a shoulder injury.
Symons started a four-guard lineup for the team’s opener last Friday against Western Wyoming, as 6-3 Lucas Antunez, 6-7 Djuan Piper and 6-6 Braian Angola-Rodas joined King and Niles. Kyle Guice, a 6-7 freshman guard/forward from Lake City High, figures to get plenty of playing time when Symons needs strength inside.
“I think we’re a lot deeper this year,” Symons said. “We can literally play 12 deep.”
NIC was ranked 21st in the NJCAA preseason poll.
Eleventh-year coach Chris Carlson led the Cardinals to their 10th consecutive 20-win season last year. More good things are expected as NIC is ranked 18th in the NJCAA preseason poll.
The Cardinals boast eight returners, including starters Kara Staggs, a 5-7 guard, and 6-1 post Panisesi Taimani. Bailey Schroeder, a 5-9 guard, also saw some starting time.
The Cardinals picked up a big transfer from Utah State in 6-0 guard/forward Shelby Cloninger, who led Kamiah (Idaho) to the state title in 2013.
Other possible starters are freshman guards Maci Benedict and Monica Landdeck.
“I think the biggest thing is experience,” Carlson said. “We return eight – that’s a lot of returners for a JC – and got a nice transfer out of Utah State. All of the freshman recruits are capable of playing many minutes.”