By Joe Henricksen

Richmond's maturation process coming along

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By Joe Henricksen

Jereme Richmond has been evaluated, gawked at, talked about, written about and analyzed almost as much as any high school player in the history of this state has been in his first two years of high school. That's what happens when you are 6-6 and your skill level far exceeds those your age and you commit to a major Division I university as a freshman. It's sometimes hard to believe he has yet to even start his junior year.

There has been plenty written about Richmond over the past 8-10 months that has painted the young kid in a negative way. In this day it's no longer just NBA players and college stars that have their critics. Whether it's fair or not, those stars of tomorrow-- today's young prep phenoms -- are scrutinized and talked about from the day they become the "Next Big Thing." And for Richmond it's been that way for the last two years.

After watching Richmond for two days at the Illinois Team Camp at Moody Bible Institute and spending a little time talking with him, it's clear Richmond is starting the process of maturing and handling the hoopla that surrounds his game and actions on and off the court. Nonetheless, it's still baby steps -- as it probably should be for someone his age.

There are times you watch Richmond and think, yep, he's putting it all together. In his early games last Friday he played with much more assertiveness and was aggressive, especially on the offensive end. He was playing hard, running the floor, finishing with authority. He would showcase his vast array of talents, scoring four straight baskets at one point with a thunderous two-hand dunk, a three-pointer, a beautiful pull-up mid-range jumper and an offensive putback. Already at 6-6 or 6-7 with size 18 shoes, you can see how he would resemble a Kevin Durant if he were to add a couple more inches.

After going on a radio show early Saturday morning with a glowing report of Richmond, I came back Saturday afternoon to see some of the tendencies that turn you off from star players -- disinterested, hands on the hips, flat-footed and an impression of boredom. I realize these kids play countless number of games throughout the spring and summer. And it can get tiresome. But you also remember players like Dee Brown, Quentin Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Brian Wardle and Jon Scheyer that rarely ever took a day off -- or a trip down the floor, for that matter. You would walk out of a gym and just appreciate the heart and effort those kids put in, no matter the stage they were on. Again, a lot of times it comes with maturity.

As far as the off-the-court issues Richmond has had to deal with, he has put them all in a positive light. He showed his growth in our conversation by staying positive and admitting he has learned from past mistakes.

"As far as I'm concerned it's a clean slate," says Richmond of his return to Waukegan after being kicked off the team late in the year. "Last year didn't go the way anyone wanted it to go. Our goal this summer is to play well together, grow together as a team."

Richmond continued to talk about the lessons he learned from the controversy of the 2007-2008 school year.

"That's what life is about -- going through trials and tribulations," he says. "You learn from them and get better as a person and make better decisions. You work on differences you have with people and try to react differently."

Yes, Richmond is saying the right things and is on the right path toward repairing what was damaged last year -- both to his reputation and team. Everyone has to realize these are teenagers, some of which are dealing with more pressure and scrutiny than 90 percent of kids their age have to deal with. This is one teenager that has learned a lot and has matured to the point where he knows things will have to change. All of it will not come overnight, but we all can leave a little room for a kid to grow up.

And then there is the Illinois angle. Despite actions that have shown otherwise, there continues to be talk of a Richmond de-commitment out there. But typically when a player de-commits there is a pattern that takes place. The player and family suddenly go into seclusion, the contact between player and university tends to drift. That has been far from the case for Richmond, whose father has regularly gone public about his son's commitment to Illinois and Jereme himself makes trips to Champaign and has even helped in the recruitment of other players. Richmond has developed a terrific relationship with assistant Jerrance Howard, which you can see as Howard interacts with Richmond, whether it be during a stop in play of a game or sitting side-by-side on a gym floor having a big brother/little brother conversation. And when you speak with Howard, his genuine care and concern for Jereme as a person is so clear.

When asked if he has become somewhat of an ambassador for the future of Illini basketball, Richmond says that's not really the role he plays. "To be an ambassador for Illinois basketball is not my job," he says. "But I'm there to show the upside of Illinois."

And the upside of Illinois basketball is so bright with Richmond in it.

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17 Comments

I feel people have been putting too much pressure on this kid for awhile. Especially Illini nation whose basketball program has been garbage for awhile now. I have suggested he should go to Oak Hill Academy Mouth of Wilson,VA. I still feel he should have went out of state. Good Luck to him at Waukegan, I feel he is going to need it. That coach up there is garbage. I feel Evanston will still own Waukegan in basketball. Look for Evanston to be a darkhorse with Ryan Frazier-Chambers,Eric Dortch,Garrett Jones, and Nic Garcia transfer from Niles West. A good sophmore class and the future is bright.

Hey: Very nice article. Itisd very good to see that Jerrance is keeping a good working relationship with Jereme.

with the players coming in with the 2009 class and Crandall Head inthe 2010 along with Richmond, I find it hard to see him changnghis committ to Illinois. Especialy with his father also deeply involved with Illinois.

Go Illini

Mr. Henricksen,

This is one of the finest written stories I have read about an athlete in a long time. I appreciate the tone of the story and the balance it presented.

Houston Texans NFL fan in Baytown, TX.

TONY: Thanks for the post. And I appreciate the kind words..... Joe H

Tim, I assume you are a high school kid by the quality of your comment. It also sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder and a bad case of sour grapes. You don't need to put people down to try to make yourself look better. Calling a coach and a fine college program "garbage" is childish.

THE PROBLEM WITH ALOT OF PEOPLE IS THAT THEY ARE
JEALOUS OF SUCCESSFUL ATHLETES!
NOW I'VE NEVER MET PLAYER RICHMOND, BUT I'LL BET YOU
THE DAY HE ORALLY COMMITTED WAS THE DAY HIS LIFE
CHANGED BECAUSE, SOME OF HIS SO-CALLED FRIENDS CHANGED,
SOME OF HIS SO-CALLED COACHES STARTED TO DISAGREE WITH
THE WAY HE PLAYED, AND SOME OF THE COMMENTS HE HEARD
WERE J-RICH, YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED HARD SINCE YOU COMMITTED TO ILLINOIS, I'M JUST SPEAKING OUTLOUD, THESE
KIDS HAVE IT ROUGH ENOUGH WITHOUT EVERY ONE SOUNDING
OFF ON THEM ALL THE TIME!
LET THE PLAYERS PLAY, LET THE COACHES COACH, LET THE
REFS REF, AND THE WORLD WILL ALWAYS BE A BETTER PLACE!

KB the truth hurts. Illinois is a garbage basketball program deal with it. Talk about dealing with a 14 year old kid. That's you!!!!! I really don't care about the Illini. My team is Kentucky the winningest program in the history of college basketball. Try topping that one dude.

DEAR TIM FROM EVANSTON EITHER YOU'RE A PATIENT FROM
TINLEY PARK, OR YOU COULDN'T GET IN A ILLINOIS GAME!
ILLINOIS I BELIEVE WAS IN THE FINAL FOUR SEVERAL YEARS
AGO, NOT KENTUCKY, KENTUCKY CHASED TUBBY SMITH OUT OF
TOWN, AND THEY ARE SUFFERING THE CONSEQUENCES, THAT'S
WHY ALEX LEGION JUST TRANSFERRED TO ILLINOIS FROM
KENTUCKY, NEW SYSTEM, NEW COACH, BARELY MADE THE NCAA
TOURNAMENT! GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR COUNSELING SESSIONS!

Timmy from Evanston, Garbage programs don't go the NCAA tournament for ten years in a row, make the Final Four, the championship game and get ranked number one-all within very recent memory. I'm going to enjoy Alex Legion very much. Strange how he would want to transfer from the winningest program to a "garbage" program. I guess he should have called you for advice. Of course, your opinion is backed up by nothing, so who cares if you think Illinois or any other program is garbage. Tip from a lawyer, Tim, facts help arguments. Just because you think or say something doesn't make it so. Check your records there, Timbo. You're way off base.

I don't know where Kentucky comes in to this. Was there a reference to UK fans making fun of Alex Legion's mother for her faith or did I miss something?

TERRON PARHAM NAMED NEW HEAD BASKETBALL COACH AT RICH
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL!
MR. PARHAM FORMER ASSISTANT AND SOPHOMORE COACH AT
RICH SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL, PLAYED COLLEGE BALL AT ARKANSAS
LITTLE-ROCK, WITH DERRICK FISHER OF THE LAKERS!
RICH CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL FORMER SCHOOL OF KENDALL GILL!
CONGRATS TO TERRON PARHAM AND THE PARHAM FAMILY!

This is to Phil,John and Jim. Alex Legion is a punk. The first sign of adversity and he leaves. All he ever will be is a chucker period. My evidence is try ALL TIME WINNINGEST PROGRAM IN THE HISTORY OF THE NCAA!!! Also 7 National Titles to 0 for Illinois. And yes Kentucky has WAY more players in the NBA than Illinois. Even our fringe guys are in the league. Chuck Hayes for one. Rajon Rondo just WON AN NBA TITLE WITH THE BOSTON CELTICS!!!! I rest my case. Illinois is a garbage program. Illini Nation needs to stay in the corn fields.

RONDO PLAYED FOR TUBBY SMITH, ALEX LEGION WILL PLAY
FOR BRUCE WEBBER, A MAN THAT SENT FIVE STARTERS TO THE
PROS FROM THAT FINAL FOUR TEAM!
DERRON WILLIAMS JUST MADE THE OLYMPIC TEAM!
ROGER POWELL PLAYS IN ITALY!
DEE BROWN PLAYS IN TURKEY!
JAMES AUGUSTINE PLAYS FOR THE ORLANDO MAGIC!
LUTHER HEAD PLAYS FOR THE HOUSTON ROCKETS!
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT IF I CAN PLAY BASKETBALL AND
I AM FROM ILLINOIS, I WANT TO PLAY FOR ILLINOIS!
JUST ASK CRANDALL HEAD WHERE HE IS GOING TO PLAY!

Phil I said the N B A not overseas. If I start counting Kentucky players overseas you would be embarrassed dude. Like I have said before don't care about Illini at all. Couldn't get Derrick Rose,John Scheyer,Sherron Collins,Shawn Livingston to name a few. Like I said garbage program Illinois Illini. Tayshaun Prince is on the Olympic Team so what? Sorry Dee Brown is garbage dude.

Whenever a student or a player has a problem its always the teachers fault or the coaches, but never the kid's. Like in jail, everyone in the jail is not guilty, just the judge was a jerk. These kids have no discipline at home, they are truly spoiled. Give me 5 none stars that play hard and we will beat 5 stars that want the ball all the time.

EVERYONE CAN'T PLAY IN THE NBA, EVEN THOUGH DEE BROWN
AND ROGER POWELL DID HAVE A CUP OF COFFEE IN THE NBA,
SHOULDN'T THEY BE ALLOWED TO EARN A LIVING DOING WHAT
THEY ARE GOOD AT AND LOVE!
THE FOUR YOUNG MEN YOU NAMED, WANTED TO ATTEND OTHER
SCHOOLS, AND ONE WENT PRO RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL!
WHATEVER YOUR BEEF IS WITH ILLINOIS, GET OVER IT, THAT
INSTITUTION WILL BE DOING WELL WHEN WE ARE BOTH NO
LONGER ON EARTH!
DEE BROWN IS A GREAT INDIVIDUAL AND HE RUNS BASKETBALL
CAMPS DOWNSTATE, HE IS WELL LOVED AT U OF I!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THAT THE YOUNG MEN THAT ATTEND
U OF I ARE GRADUATING AND DOING WELL IN LIFE!

DEE BROWN JUST SIGNED A TWO YEAR CONTRACT WITH THE
WASHINGTON WIZARDS, UTAH HAS 7 DAYS TO MATCH OFFER,
UTAH SAYS THEY WILL NOT MATCH OFFER, THEREFORE, FORMER
FIGHTING ILLINI, THE MAN WHO WON MORE GAMES AT ILLINOIS
IN FOUR YEARS THAN ANY OTHER PLAYER, WILL BECOME A
WASHINGTON WIZARD! MR. BROWN PLAYED IN TURKEY LAST
SEASON!

For Tim: Look Illinois may not be UK in basketball, but Illinois is not a garbage program either. If you want to take it that way, UK is a garbage academic program.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on June 18, 2008 12:04 PM.

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