CHAMPAIGN IL - JANUARY 22: Jereme Richmond #22 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is consoled by a teammate late in the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Assembly Hall on January 22 2011 in Champaign Illinois. Ohio State won 73-68. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
He was the epitome of an underachieving freshman that probably needed just one more year on campus to show fans, scouts and his peers what all the hype was about. In the end, he's a classic example of a player who simply made a bad decision declaring early for the NBA Draft.
That guy we're talking about is former Illinois forward Jereme Richmond, a McDonald's All-American who seemed poised for an exceptional sophomore campaign en route to a handshake with David Stern. But after averaging just under eight points a game in one season in Champaign, and people in the Illini athletic community telling him to just frieken stick around, Richmond didn't bother with sound advice.
Instead Richmond sought to show up those who doubted him by also showing up head coach Bruce Weber. This resulted in some Illini fans to unfairly question their coach's recruiting abilities. Why hand out a scholarship to someone who won't contribute in the lone season he's on campus?
Last Thursday, despite being a projected early second round pick, Richmond's name was not called in the draft. He's now in basketball purgatory; a gloomy place with few answers or school to fall back on.
Because of this, Richmond's uncle is pretty peeved.
Per the Chicago Tribune:
Richmond's name was not called during Thursday's draft, leaving him a true free agent — no school to go back to, no league to audition for with an expected NBA lockout just days away.
"NBA executives have to be a fool not to consider him," said Richmond's uncle, Crawford Richmond. "They have to be fools and they are fools, but what they're going to do is they're going to get him for cheap.
"He's going to play in the NBA."
During a lengthy phone interview with the Tribune this week, Crawford Richmond, who described himself as a "passionate basketball uncle," made his credentials clear: Played for Tex Winter at Long Beach State, teammate of former Bull Craig Hodges. (Jereme Richmond, his mother, Kimberlee, and father, Bill, did not respond to requests for comment.)
"He's way better than (No. 1 overall selection) Kyrie Irving," Crawford Richmond said. "He's right there with (North Carolina's) Harrison Barnes. I can't tell the difference. Jereme is soft spoken and he's different, but that doesn't make him a bad person."
Excuse me? "Way better" than Kyrie Irving? You're saying 30 NBA teams made 1-3 potentially crippling mistakes by not drafting Crawford's nephew?
I'll call bluff on this one, and take solace in the fact that these sentiments aren't being seconded by other relatives of Jereme.
Although Richmond's situation isn't unique, it is a bit less promising to have a happy ending than other overconfident college basketball players. The unfortunate caveat to this off-season is a looming lockout that, when it goes into effect, will prevent Richmond and other undrafted free agents from getting face time with teams seeking to fill out their summer league rosters.
I don't feel bad for Richmond. He's clearly got the potential, and could have contended for Big Ten POY honors next winter as one of the game's biggest breakout players. Instead, he's without a home and will likely have to head overseas to continue his basketball career.
Hopefully this serves as a cautionary tale to value the college experience.