Salt Lake Community College’s Women’s Basketball player Mercedes Riggs is known by her teammates and coaches as a competitor, hard worker and leader. A point-guard, she contributes to the team in a lot of ways, whether scrapping for a loose ball, running the offense or boosting a teammate’s morale in a tough spot.
The Bruins themselves were nearly in the tough spot of missing out on bringing her talents into the program, but the universe works in interesting ways.
“SLCC wasn’t even recruiting me during my senior season at Timpanogos High School,” says Riggs. “The night that I was about to commit to a Wyoming school, I received an e-mail from Coach [Betsy] Specketer asking me to come scrimmage. I was so excited that I decided to hold off on committing for one more night.”
Riggs came to Bruin Arena for the requested scrimmage and impressed the coaching staff so much with her effort and tenacity that 18-year Head Coach Betsy Specketer offered her a scholarship on the spot.
“I’m so glad that I made the choice to come for that scrimmage,” adds Riggs. “SLCC was a much better fit for me. I knew instantly that this was where I wanted to play, and looking back, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I’m really glad I got that e-mail.”
Because of the close call, Riggs, a Black-belt in martial arts and self-taught guitar player, is especially proud to be a Bruin. She is not at all shy about being appreciative of the opportunities in front of her.
“It means a lot to me to be able to play here at SLCC,” she says. “I see the opportunity to be here as a true blessing. It’s more than just a game or a sport to me—it’s everything I’ve ever worked for.”
Riggs will find herself in a new role this season as a sophomore having a crucial year of collegiate experience to use as a building block. She admits that the transition from high school to college was a bit rough at first.
“I think I was nervous and antsy for the first half of the season last year. It’s just a different game at the college level,” said Riggs. “In high school, I was kind of a team star, but I saw quickly that we had a whole team of those high school stars trying to play together here at SLCC.”
Having learned the expectations and demands of being a scholarship athlete, Riggs is ready to embrace a newfound role both on and off the court and hopes to use her personality traits to benefit the entire squad.
“Instead of focusing all the time on what I need to do on the floor, I can take more time to be a leader,” tells Riggs. “I know what my teammates expect from me, and now that I have some seniority I know how I can better help this team be successful this season.”
Riggs hopes to help the Bruins return to the top of the hotly contested Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) standings and is already chomping at the bit to get back on the floor in a game setting.
“My mindset right now is focused on helping us win the Region 18 Championship and get this program back to the National Tournament,” says Riggs emphatically. “That’s what this entire team is focused on, that’s our goal.”
Riggs and the Bruins saw last season end in a disappointing fashion with a post-season blowout loss to Region 18 Tournament host North Idaho College (NIC). The loss has left a lasting impression on her.
“It’s like an itch that I can’t scratch,” said Riggs. “It was a rough game, and I think that anyone who saw it knows that. It hurt pretty badly because it wasn’t like we were terrible. NIC was just amazing that day.”
Even on the hard days, Riggs is quick to say that she’s having a lot of fun out on the hardwood, though it might not be readily apparent to those viewing the contest at-hand.
“Playing here is so much fun. Even though I almost never smile out there on the court, I’m having a blast,” said Riggs. “The fun part to me is the competition and intensity—making an opponent upset because I’m guarding [her] so tight is a part of the game I really enjoy. My passion comes from being challenged and competing.”
Riggs finished the 2012-13 season ranked fifth on the team in scoring at 5.5 points per game and was third on the squad with 68 assists on the year. She turned in 2.1 rebounds per contest and led the Bruins in steals with 43.
Known as a ‘gym rat’ by her teammates for always putting in extra work after practice, Riggs is focused on improving her jump-shot, driving to the basket more frequently to create opportunities for teammates and getting even better on the defensive side of the ball.
“I have a real passion for being on this team, and I’m going to put everything I have into this season in order to help us win,” said Riggs. “That’s how much it means to me to be a Bruin.”
The Bruin guard will have her share of opportunities to compete with the 2013-14 season fast-approaching. The team begins official practices on Oct. 1 and will host the annual SLCC Jamboree pre-season tournament at Bruin Arena on Oct. 18. Fans can find a full schedule and more at slccbruins.com.