Rishonda Napier goes from Hollywood to the hardwood

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    Oct 4, 2012

    By Bill Ford

    CARBONDALE, IL - Not many college basketball players have an entry on the Internet Movie Database, commonly known as IMDB.

    Rishonda Napier has one. Before she ever got in a layup line, the Saluki freshman was memorizing lines.

    "My brother and I were always good at public speaking and doing things in church," Napier said. "When my brother was seven, he told my dad he wanted to be an actor. Him being the older brother and me wanting to be just like him, I wanted to do everything he did."

    When Napier was eight years old, her family moved from Florida to Burbank, Calif. to pursue her brother Ryan's acting dream. Both Napier kids ended up getting involved in acting. Rishonda made appearances in two episodes of "ER," one episode of "Malcolm in the Middle" and a short film called "Gift for the Living."

    It didn't take Rishonda long, however, to realize her interests lay elsewhere.

    Rishonda Napier gave up acting for basketball.

    "Basketball is the reason I stopped acting," Napier said. "I played my first basketball game, and I decided that was what I wanted to do."

    Napier first started playing basketball in the Burbank parks and recreation league. She was eventually picked up by an AAU team and started playing basketball in school as well. Napier played point guard for the first time during her freshman year of high school.

    "I played the two until I was in high school. That is when I realized that I was a little vertically challenged," said Napier, who stands 5-foot-5. "Point guard was the best fit for me. I believe it is one of the hardest jobs on the floor, but it is the most important."

    Napier helped Bellarmine-Jefferson High school to the California Division V state championship as a freshman and earned First-Team All-State honors three times during her career, in addition to being a McDonald's All-American nominee her senior season. Additionally, she graduated near the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA.



    Southern signed Napier in the late signing period last spring. SIU coach Missy Tiber said Napier's basketball talents weren't the only thing that caught her attention.

    "Rishonda is a mature young lady with an engaging personality," Tiber said. "We are very excited to have her as part of our program."

    Though SIU had an All-MVC point guard a year ago in Valley Freshman of the Year Cartaesha Macklin, it is possible that SIU's best lineup may be to have Napier run the point with Macklin at the two.

    "Rishonda has been extremely impressive during preseason workouts," Tiber said. "She is a true point guard and has the ability to score the basketball in many ways."