Jereme Richmond isn’t under-prepared whatsoever for the NBA — just ask his family members.
Richmond’s uncle, Crawford, went off the reservation when talking to the Chicago Tribune over the weekend about his undrafted nephew. Let’s get right to the fantasyland quotes:
"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."
If you can’t tell the difference between Jereme Richmond and Harrison Barnes, then you shouldn’t be quoted in a major American newspaper about Jereme Richmond’s potential as an NBA-level player. I respect Crawford Richmond’s loving compassion for his nephew, but that nephew defined the term underwhelming last season at Illinois.
And “way better” than Kyrie Irving? Even if you consider Irving the most suspect of No. 1 overall picks, that’s straight-laced hyperbole coming from Crawford.
Richmond (who was chief among the misfit toys at this year’s NBA Draft) averaged 7.6 points and 5 rebounds per game last year. He frustrated a fanbase that was hoping he and senior Demetri McCamey would lead the Illini to the Final Four. Richmond should have returned to school. But he and head coach Bruce Weber butted heads. From what I gather, there was evidence of conflict, including Richmond not even playing for Illinois in the NCAA tournament and rumors about other infighting on the team.
Going for NBA dollars immediately instead of transferring, sitting out a year, and most likely improving his game in a more-ideal situation wasn’t the answer Richmond chose. So few players with fringe NBA talent have the wherewithal to put patience into their game and force themselves into new locations before they get to their so-desired final location: the NBA. Crawford Richmond admits as much, though he puts a lot of blame on one particular person.
He says it was a constant chorus from friends, agents, the media and, in particular, Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard. Howard handled Richmond's recruitment at Illinois after former assistant Tracy Webster left for an assistant's job at Kentucky.
Howard has been credited with helping to reinvigorate the Illini's recruiting.
In Jereme Richmond's case, his uncle says Howard repeatedly told the player that he was bound for the NBA after one season at Illinois. Crawford Richmond's implication is clear: Howard mislead Jereme to ensure the player would keep his commitment to attend Illinois.
"Jerrance Howard recruited him on the basis that you're 'one-and done,' so that was in a young kid's mind," Crawford Richmond said.
And if you read the story, you’ll see Crawford Richmond hates Jerrance Howard now for it. It’s a shame, for sure. Jereme Richmond embodied Illinois basketball last year, though. I remember talking to someone in college basketball about how no team in the sport had more players on its roster that could one day make money, at some level, playing the game than Illinois.
Yet you saw what the team did. It wasn’t all Richmond fault, but his last decision with the Illini was his worst. The only thing he has in common with Kyrie Irving is the decision to leave school after one year. In that regard, he should have tried to be more like Harrison Barnes.