A historic afternoon for a quiet player

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Freshman Ceira Ricketts made University of Arkansas history Sunday afternoon with a triple-double for the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team in the Razorbacks’ 70-61 loss to sixth-ranked Auburn on Sunday.

Ricketts’ effort of 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists is believed to be the first triple-double by a women’s basketball player in the 34-year history of the program.

“Oh my gosh,” head coach Tom Collen said. “I thought she was just the first freshman.”

The quiet, unassuming freshman from Louisville, Ky., would be the first to say that it was her teammates, or that she was just trying for the team.

“I wasn’t concerned about it,” Ricketts said when asked about her triple. “I was just trying to do things to help our team to win.”

The 5-9 guard remained quiet most of the post-game press conference, only the occasional cough revealing that she may not have been at full strength against the Tigers.

“Ceira is pretty humble and still trying to learn what it’s like to be aggressive and attack for 40 minutes,” Collen said. “She’s never had to do that before. Today was the first example of that — being pretty productive for a lot of minutes.”

Ricketts clocked 38 minutes in the game, another season high.

“I played her a lot of minutes today, and I believe in my heart that if she stays aggressive, we’ll be better,” Collen said. “By nature, she doesn’t want to be the center of attention. We’ve been trying to push Ceira all year long to be more assertive off the dribble. Today’s game proves that when she attacks, she’s capable of making everybody on her team better.”

The Razorbacks pushed the top 10 Tigers to the brink in both the first and second halves, rallying from double-digit deficits.

At Fairdale High School in Louisville, Ricketts had four quadruple-doubles in her career, and was three blocks from a quintuple double as a senior. A quiet prepster that let her statistics do the talking for her, Ricketts arrived at Arkansas this fall with over 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 900 steals in her high school career.

“She’s a terrific rebounder, and she’ll get her share of rebounds because she rebounds on both ends of the floor,” Collen said.

Earlier this season, Ricketts flirted with the triple by pulling down seven rebounds and a then-season best eight assists with 16 points against North Dakota. She also had a close call with Western Illinois, combining 14 points with eight rebounds, six steals and six assists in only 30 minutes played.

“It doesn’t surprise me that she’s been able to attain that,” Collen added. “We see that happening for her on a somewhat regular basis in the future. She could get double-digit in steals too. She’s such a modest young lady that it’s hard to get her to be assertive.”

Quiet off the court, Ricketts returned to the lead in the SEC this weekend in steals per game, no small feat for a freshman. Still, the Razorback coaches are trying to draw more from Ricketts.

“She’s not going to be selfish if she attacks and creates,” Collen added. “Sometimes it will be shots for her, but it will also be easy shots for her teammates.”

Along with the school’s first triple for a women’s basketball player, Ricketts also ties two important school records.

Rickett’s 12 assists equals the efforts of Amy Wright from 1999 and Rochelle Vaughn in 2004 for the most assists in a Southeastern Conference regular season game.

Ricketts and Wright now also share the Arkansas record for most assists by a freshman at 12.

Several notable Razorback women’s basketball players have narrowly missed the triple, including all-time assist leader Amy Wright, recent star point guard Brittney Vaughn, Final Four leader Christy Smith and Southwest Conference era star Amber Nicholas Shirey.

When Collen asserts that Ricketts has the chance to be one of the better guards at Arkansas, he knows of which he speaks. It was Collen as an assistant coach that brought Smith from West Lafayette, Ind., to Arkansas, and spotted Wright for the Razorbacks before he departed in 1998 to become a head coach on his own.

The closest effort to Ricketts came during the SWC days as sophomore guard Sally Moore turned in 18 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in a Nov. 27, 1990, win over Oklahoma, 84-72.

Brittney Vaughn is the only guard to have three straight double-digit assist games, but missed the triple twice by a field goal or rebound. Her closest call came at St. Louis on Dec. 30, 2006, with 13 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Her teammate, Lauren Ervin, came within two blocks of a triple with 17 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks against Cincinnati that same season.

Her older sister, Rochelle, had the point-rebound double on Feb. 8, 2004, to tie Wright’s mark for assists in a SEC game. Rochelle turned in 12 assists with 11 points, but pulled down only four rebounds.

Wright also came close, becoming the first player to register the difficult assist-rebound double-double against Miss State as a junior in 2000-01 with 10 each against the Lady Bulldogs.

Wright set the freshman and SEC game mark with her 12 assists versus LSU on Feb. 11, 1999, but she only had three rebounds and four assists.

For her all her outstanding performances and several points-assist doubles, Smith’s career rebound high was only seven.

The Razorbacks head into a tough part of the SEC season with Sunday’s Auburn game, hosting the defending national champion Tennessee on Thursday night at Walton Arena at 7 p.m. before heading on the road for back-to-back away games.