By Joe Henricksen
It's not earth-shattering or even breaking news in proclaiming Waukegan's Jereme Richmond as the state's premier player and best college prospect in Illinois. The fact is, though, there isn't even a debate.
The 6-7 junior has been simply sensational this season. He was at it again Saturday playing in his future home--University of Illinois' Assembly Hall. Richmond showed off in front of fans and Illini coaches the vast of array of talents that make him the state's top player and one of the brightest talents in the country.
When it comes to physical talent, he's in rare company for a player that has just started his junior year. His wingspan, quickness, athleticism and excellent feel for the game have few peers and appear effortless at times. Richmond runs the floor, has range out to the three-point line and a solid mid-range game. And he's an underrated passer. But his skill set, which resembles a Tracy McGrady or Kevin Durant-type, is not what has set him apart. Those talents were noticeable early on. But his mental make-up has taken a 180 degree turn--for the better. And everyone has taken notice.
Richmond has grown up. I wrote about Richmond's maturation in a Hoops Report blog early last summer after watching and talking with him at the Illinois Team Camp at Moody Bible Institute. At that time he seemed to be getting it, understanding the expectations and realizing the areas where he needed to grow. But at that time it was still so fresh. His dismissal from the Waukegan team was just a few months earlier. But he has continued taking positive strides in that area. As a result, everything just seems to be coming together for the young, articulate Richmond.
He seems to be having so much fun, while respecting the game along the way. A bad call against him or his team, which there were a couple in yesterday's win over Rock Island, just bounces off him now. Last year you never knew how he would respond. Richmond is playing with a purpose, while putting his team first. Yes, it certainly does seem as though he's turned the corner.
Meyers Leonard an eye-opener
The curious case of Robinson's Meyers Leonard rages on. The Hoops Report has stated before that it has not seen a player blossom and rise more quickly--basically going from complete obscurity to a top 100 player nationally with high-major offers in a matter of months--in the 14 years of the Hoops Report. But Leonard has a chance to be special.
When you look at a 6-10 young player you don't expect to see the skill level he has, whether it was showcasing the jump hook he used or a back-to-the-basket turnaround jumper. He runs the floor well and has the body and frame to really use the edge that he has to his advantage around the basket. He still physically has to get much stronger, but as mentioned he has the frame to probably add 20-25 pounds. When it comes to former Illini players, which is where Robinson will be playing his college ball, he could evolve into a more skilled Robert Archibald when he does add that 20-25 pounds.
Odds & Ends from the Shootout at the Hall
• Brandon Paul of Warren was and still is the No. 1 college prospect in the Class of 2009. When you combine his length, athleticism and explosiveness with his ability to score, he just has too many tools and too much upside in comparison to any player in the senior class. There may be a better or more productive high school player in the state, but there is not a better college prospect.
• Waukegan guard Colin Nickerson continues to show why he was such a great recruit for Fairfield. How this talented guard got out of the Midwest is beyond me.
• After a couple of real good looks at Rock Island's Chasson Randle recently, he's a high-major without question. And he continues to get better. But he's still a notch below a few of the elite players in the ridiculously loaded Class of 2011. Randle shot the ball well in Assembly Hall and is another young player with a great feel for the game, capable, it seems, to play both guard spots.
• Bobo Drummond, the wise-beyond-his-years point guard from Peoria Central, is the real deal. His feel for the game and the point guard position for a player his age is pretty remarkable.
• The Hoops Report loves Jonathan Mills of North Lawndale as a high school player and the toughness and rebounding he brings, but he certainly has severe deficiencies and is limited in so many ways.
• Finally, what a showcase for Illini recruits. The days of Trent Meacham, Calvin Brock and Chester Frazier on the perimeter will be forgotten quickly with the arrival of such athletic and talented players like Richmond, Paul, D.J. Richardson, Crane's Crandall Head and Sterling's Joseph Bertrand. Illini fans have to feel giddy with the hope and anticipation those recruits bring. Now imagine if Illinois is able to keep a few of the star-studded players in the 2011 class in-state?