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Etiwanda's Mykelle Richards takes winding road to state title game against Archbishop Mitty

Scorebook Live 3/11/2023 John Murphy

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – It’s 10 minutes until the start of practice and Etiwanda High girls’ basketball coach Stan Delus is in a sour mood.

“I’m extremely irritated,” Delus says.

Delus didn’t know a volleyball team was practicing on a nearby court. He’s also miffed about the music pouring from the volleyball court. It’s loud enough to wake the dead.

Soon the Eagles in their red and white togs straggle out. That includes junior 6-foot, one-inch forward Mykelle Richards, a transfer from Cajon High in San Bernardino.

Mykelle Richards, Etiwanda. Photo: Heston Quan © Provided by Scorebook Live Mykelle Richards, Etiwanda. Photo: Heston Quan

Richards is tall and thin and slightly timid looking. Except that she’s a tigress on the court, especially when playing defense.

Richards and her teammates will have to excel on Saturday in the CIF-State Open championship game in Sacramento. There Etiwanda (31-3) will meet Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (28-2) and its super freshman McKenna Woliczko and 5-star junior recruit Morgan Cheli.


Richards played last season on a Cajon team that had only a few substitutes. Now she’s on a stacked Etiwanda squad and averages eight points and 10 rebounds per game. But what a rut-filled trek it’s been.

Richards grew up in the High Desert where she experienced racial prejudice at a young age.

“She perseveres,” Richards’ mother Summer says. “She’s had a few challenges, but she’s stronger than many people think. She’s psychologically strong.”

Continued Summer, “It’s been quite a journey for her. We moved here from Apple Valley and there was a low population of people of color. There were incidents where children were told not to play with brown kids.”

The Etiwanda player also heard more than her share of racially tinged “Yo momma” jokes.

“Basketball has been the saving grace for her,” Summer said. “She started middle school at Academy of Academic Excellence and got praise for her basketball ability.”


The Eagles stretch. They do ballhandling drills. They go over their offensive sets. Delus barks instructions.

During a break, Richards grabs a basketball. She moves around the floor firing in 17-footers. Swish. Swish. Swish. The girl’s got skills.

“She’s an unbelievably gifted athlete,” Delus says. “She has length and a desire to defend anyone. Her play is infectious. She gets into passing lanes and disrupts.”

Richards has an angelic face and a sweet smile. She also has a penchant for speaking in complete sentences.

Mykelle Richards, Etiwanda. Photo: Heston Quan © Provided by Scorebook Live Mykelle Richards, Etiwanda. Photo: Heston Quan

“I love being able to use my athleticism and different skills to score and help my teammates to get in position to score,” Richards says. “And I love the energy of basketball.”

Said Richards’ mom, “Mykelle has unique abilities that she doesn’t put on display for the world. She’ll draw an island filled with milk shakes and other things that are fun and uplifting. She’s also a great dancer.”

Out with an injury on Thursday, Majesty Cade sits on a folding chair and verifies the dancing part.

“Mykelle is quiet and funny until you get to know her,” Cade says. “She likes to dance a lot, in the bathroom and locker room. It’s not a secret. She puts it on TikTok.”


Delus respects Saturday’s opponent Mitty and its iconic coach Sue Phillips.

“They’re all 6 feet tall,” he says of the Monarchs. “They’re long and lanky and they have a freshman who rebounds everything and finishes at the hoop.”

When Richards catches a pass on the press-breaker and doesn’t act immediately, Delus says, “Do not hesitate. They will make you pay.”

The practice now finished, Delus gathers his troops and speaks.

“These (state title games) are hard to get to,” he says. “At this moment now —  two days away from the biggest game of your careers — we’ve got to be locked in. For this one moment that will live forever in the history of this school, we have to remain focused. You have two banners now, but don’t you want the big one?”

With that the Eagles rise. They each raise a hand and yell, “E High.”

Then Richards and her teammates depart, moving closer to their date with destiny.

John Murphy is a contributor for SBLiveCA and a sports editor for the Century Media Group of Southern California. He can be reached at . Twitter: @PrepDawg2.  

All photos below by John Murphy

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