Highland Park, Sports

Highland Park’s Addie Budnik stars in Richmond’s historic run to NCAA Tourney

Addie Budnik’s time with University of Richmond women’s basketball may or may not be over, but the memories will linger forever.

The 6-foot-2 senior forward from Highland Park played a starring role during the Spiders’ historic season, which ended with a 72-61 loss to Duke on March 22 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was only Richmond’s fourth appearance in the big dance and its first in nearly 20 years (1995). Richmond finished 29-6 on the season and as Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament champions, a first for the Spiders; though, they won the CAA in 1991. Richmond was also 14-0 at home and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time.

Budnik was named the Most Outstanding Player of the A-10 tourney, and the final moments of the Spiders’ 65-51 title-game win against Rhode Island are something she’ll never forget.

“That final minute of that game … the last minute we all just hugged,” Budnik said.

The next, and last, time the Spiders were on the court was the season-ending loss to Duke.

“An unbelievable experience to play in March Madness and everything that comes with it,” Budnik said. “We embraced that, enjoyed every second.”

Even in the result, Budnik and the Spiders took some consolation. They had lost by 51 (100-49) to Duke in December 2022 and by 30 (83-53) in this year’s season opener.

“That shows the maturity and how much we improved as a group,” Budnik said.

Budnik during her days with the Giants of Highland Park High School. | Photo from Highland Park High School

It all started with the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, when Budnik was named A-10 Rookie of the Year and led the league in blocks as the Spiders went 13-9.

“Coming in freshman year, the coach (Aaron Roussell) sold this vision to us of how (good) the program could be,” Budnik said. “Every year we’ve made strides.”

The Spiders reached the A-10 final and played in the WNIT last season, finishing 21-11. That raised expectations for a special season this winter.

“We knew with everyone returning we had a chance,” Budnik said. “It’s an incredible feeling to see all our hard work pay off.”

Budnik averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this season, shooting .385 from 3-point range and .803 from the foul line. She also led the league and was top-10 nationally in blocks en route to being named the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

Budnik also has taken on the kind of role one would expect for a four-year veteran.

“Coming in freshman year, I was a little more shy, not super vocal,” Budnik said. “As time has gone on, I’ve become more confident, being able to speak up when it’s needed.”

As a senior at Highland Park High School, Budnik averaged 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, and one thing she’s happy to talk about is her sport’s surging popularity since those days.

“If there’s a time to be a women’s basketball player, it’s right now,” Budnik said. “Iowa played in a sold-out football stadium. Viewership is on the rise. I’m seeing that in our own fan base.”

She noted one game this year when the seats at Richmond’s Robins Center were filled with red-shirted fans 40 minutes before tipoff. 

“That wasn’t happening four years ago,” Budnik said.

With the season wrapped up, Budnik is sorting out her future. She’ll graduate in June with a business degree and has one year of eligibility remaining because of the COVID exemption, which the NCAA offers to college players who competed during the COVID-impacted seasons.

Remaining at Richmond is a possibility and so is going elsewhere.

“Academics is the main priority,” she said.

Navigating the new world of college athletics can be a bit disorienting.

“I haven’t made any decisions yet,” Budnik said. “It’s definitely a weird time seeing the (players with extra) COVID years and the transfer portal, going on social media and seeing someone new has entered the portal every hour every day.”

 She doesn’t expect the process to take long.

“I’m hoping to figure this out in the next couple weeks,” Budnik said. “I’m doing research.”

And she’s savoring the memories of a season for the ages.

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Mike Clark

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