(Photo Credit: The News & Observer)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure freshman guard Rhianna Council is fully prepared for the basketball-crazed atmosphere of her new campus and Reilly Center arena. After all, she’s a Durham, N.C. native and alum of Northern High School, which is a short drive away from some of the cathedrals of college hoops.
The four major universities that make up the famous “Tobacco Road” area are all close. Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium is only 20 minutes away. The University of North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center is only 10 minutes further. You can also get to North Carolina State University and Wake Forest University in 45 minutes or less.
In April, Council even got to play on the same court as UNC stars Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson in an ACC Barnstorming Tour charity game at her school. Her Northern All-Star team lost to “The ACC’ers,” who were coached by UNC legend Phil Ford, but she scored 19 points and was voted MVP.
“I had a lot of access to different college teams, so I went to games right down the street from me,” Council said. “I was around a lot of great players, so that helped with my basketball process. Basketball was big in Durham on all levels, from elementary school age going up.”
It was no surprise that Council and her brothers, who are all named Ricky after father Rick, have parlayed those experiences into basketball success. Oldest brother Ricky II is a sophomore at Providence College who played in 14 games for the Friars last year. Ricky III and Ricky IV are high-caliber recruits in the 2018 and 2020 classes, respectively.
“It’s great,” Rhianna Council said. “I grew up in a basketball family, so since a young age that’s what we’ve been doing all our lives. I’m very happy that (Ricky II is) doing well over there at Providence and I’m glad to follow his lead and be another D-I player.”
After a stellar high school career in which she averaged 25.1 points and 9.8 rebounds a game and was named the 2016 Piedmont Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Council would figure to have known her college destination early. However, she didn’t commit until late August. Bonaventure officially announced her addition to the program on Aug. 25.
“It was a long and dreadful process,” she said. “You’re nervous not knowing where you’re gonna end up, but I was patient and I trusted the process. I came up here for a visit and I knew then that this was where I wanted to be, and I committed a week later.”
“Rhianna is really, really versatile, just gets better every single day,” Bona coach Jesse Fleming remarked. “She needs to rebound, we’re probably going to ask her to play the four at times, although she’s probably more of a wing. But she can make the open shots, she can make the open pull-up. She works really, really hard.”
Council hasn’t just captured the attention of Bona coach Jesse Fleming however; in 2014, she was one of 140 players nationwide selected to try out for the FIBA U17 World Championship team. Some players who ended up making the team: UConn sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson, Texas freshman and 2016 top recruit Joyner Holmes and Louisville sophomore Asia Durr.
“It was amazing,” Council said. “Seeing a whole lot of girls with the same dream as I have going at it was a great experience. It was tough, but I had fun. I learned from it and I got better before I left.”
Council lists her pull-up jumper as her biggest strength, but said her defense is one of the things she wants to improve.
“As a freshman, I need to work on getting into the flow of everything and adjusting.”