As a young girl growing up in Arlington, it probably served Randi Richardson well that her baby-sitter knew as much about Dr. Naismith as she did of Dr. Seuss. The baby-sitter could teach...

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As a young girl growing up in Arlington, it probably served Randi Richardson well that her baby-sitter knew as much about Dr. Naismith as she did of Dr. Seuss.


The baby-sitter could teach her the crossover dribble as well as “The Cat in the Hat.” As it turned out, her baby-sitter was Kayla Burt, a former star basketball player at Arlington High and now a guard for the Washington Huskies. “She’s my total inspiration,” Richardson said. “She’d give me advice. She taught me so much about basketball, dribbling, fundamentals. She was my idol growing up.”


The baby and the baby-sitter who shared the same neighborhood and love for basketball have grown up to establish themselves as two of the best players the community has produced. Burt was one of the top players in the country coming out of high school in 2001. She finished her high-school career with a 20.9 scoring average and set school records for points (2,241) and three-point field goals (226).


She also set Arlington school single-game records for points (45), free throws (17), field goals (14), assists (11), steals (11) and three-point field goals (7), and season records for points (685), free throws (192), field goals (210), three-point field goals (73), scoring average (27.4) and steals (116).


Richardson, a 5-foot-6 junior, 5 inches shorter than Burt, is putting together her own legacy. She is averaging 17.8 points through six games, third in WesCo. She had been the conference’s leading scorer until she was held to seven points last Wednesday by Marysville-Pilchuck.


She remembers how, two years ago this week, she had been “so shocked and scared” when she heard the news that Burt had suffered cardiac arrest. Burt’s Washington teammates were instrumental in keeping her alive and quickly called for medical treatment. Burt was hospitalized for a week and eventually had a defibrillator implanted in her chest.


Her playing career was believed to be over, and she was a student assistant coach last season. But last summer she decided to return to the court and this season is the Huskies’ leading scorer.


Richardson has gone to see Burt play once this year, but they didn’t talk at length.


“I’m still really shy around her,” Richardson said. “It’s like talking to Michael Jordan.”


“Randi really looks up to Kayla,” Arlington Coach Corey Gibb said. “That desire to play and achieve success is there for both of them.”


That desire also doesn’t end on the court. Richardson has a 4.0 grade-point average and is ranked No. 1 in her class of nearly 400.


“She’s a great student, great basketball player and even a better person,” Gibb added. “She volunteers at sports camps. She officiates games at the Boys & Girls Club. She goes to nursing homes to visit the residents, a bunch of stuff like that. I can’t say enough positive things about her.”


Richardson showed her scoring prowess back in eighth grade when she averaged 30 points a game for her middle-school team. For Arlington High, she averaged 16 a game as a freshman, then 22.5 points last season. She’s doing it against defenses designed to stop her.


“That’s pretty impressive,” Gibb said. “She makes really good decisions. She worked hard during the offseason in evaluating her game. She’s one of the hardest-working individuals I’ve ever been around.”


What has helped Richardson develop into a more all-around player is some special instruction and high-caliber play of her Seattle summer team, Emerald City.


“The best thing I’ve come to realize is to take what’s given to you,” Richardson said. “I get a lot of box-and-one and double-teams, so I don’t get a lot of open shots. I’ve learned to draw in the defense and dish it.”


Richardson’s biggest challenge is helping her team qualify for state. She has been part of a rebuilding program since Burt left. Arlington was 3-17 her first season and 7-13 last year. The Eagles are 4-2 this season.


“Being as competitive as I am, it’s tough losing,” Richardson said. “It has been real difficult to take. It’s not anything you enjoy. But seeing the improvement every year makes you feel like you’re accomplishing so much. And I think it has made me a better well-rounded player to be on a team that has struggled.”


Richardson’s long-term goal is to play Division I basketball, and she’s generating interest. Dozens of schools have sent letters and made contact with her. Her parents and coaches are screening the process.


“I try not to think too much about it,” she added. “I don’t want that to affect the way I play.”


Gibb added: “Whoever gets her, they’re going to be really lucky.”


Bob Sherwin: 206-464-8286 or bsherwin@seattletimes.com