Home away from home

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – A short 50 minute drive separates the cities of Zionsville and Greenwood, Indiana. Ever since they met, Delaney Richason and Emma Utterback have been so far apart on the basketball court. They played for different high schools but were on the same AAU team starting in fifth grade.

“We knew who the other was, but we’d never played on the same team before,” Richason said. “Then we played on the same team and…”

“…since,” Utterback said, finishing Richason’s sentence as only close friends can. “I played against their team when we were younger. They were really good and we were really good back then. Whenever we played against each other, it was a kind of rivalry. So we grabbed a few players from their team and brought them over and put our own new team together.”

When UVM started recruiting the two, they were able to keep their recruits apart. However, they overlapped on a campus visit just before her senior year of high school.

“We spent some time together on the visit but we kept it separate to make the decision ourselves. Because it’s a big decision,” Richason said.

Two different routes were then formed to get from Indiana to Burlington. However, right after that visit, their paths merged when they were ready to tell head coach Alisa Kresge that they wanted to be Catamounts.

“I called Kres, and Delaney tried to call Kres at the same time I was on the phone to sign up,” Utterback recalled. “She didn’t know that Kres was on the phone with me. So I said yes, and five minutes later she called Kres and you involved. So it was back to back and we didn’t know the other person was committing. We thought, ‘No way!’”

High school basketball in Indiana is different – as the saying goes, “In 49 other states, it’s just basketball.” Growing up in this environment prepared Emma and Delaney for the grind of Division I basketball. So much so that they’ve started every game of their college career.

“We’re so grateful for both of our high school experiences,” Utterback said. “We played a lot of songs and had a lot of structure, it reminded me of a college program. Learning that at a young age burned it into our brains and it eased the transition in that sense.”

Many impressive numbers accompany each of their resumes, but the impact the duo has had on the program goes beyond any box score. All stem from her close-knit upbringing.

“They are the first to stand behind their teammates. The first thing I see about them is that they are such wonderful people to join our team,” Kresge said. “It’s really a family atmosphere and we talk about it a lot, but if they don’t believe it and live it, then it never will be. When you have leaders like that, it really helps younger players to be themselves and know that someone has their back. Delaney and Emma always stand in a row.”

They call themselves couch potatoes. And even though they’re a little over 700 miles from where they were born, they’re together, so home never feels that far away.

“This experience strengthened our friendship and bond, we won’t be able to live without each other at this point,” Utterback said, as Delaney nodded in agreement. “Very grateful for that friendship and for Vermont bringing us closer, and a friendship that never died where distance divided. We could make it stronger. I wish we had more than five years.”

“She’s friends with all my friends, I’m friends with all her friends,” Richason said. “It’s really fun to be with each other all the time. We live here together and everything.”