Home > Illini, Illinois basketball > Thoughts on Jereme Richmond: his uncle, his decisions and Jerrance Howard

Thoughts on Jereme Richmond: his uncle, his decisions and Jerrance Howard

Every family has the talker. The one that thinks his words rise to the top. The one that doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

In Jereme Richmond’s living bloodline, that seems to be his uncle Crawford Richmond.

Crawford chose to be the mouthpiece of the Richmond clan when all others, including Jereme and his parents mounted a brick-wall defense with the media after the Illinois freshman went unselected in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Speaking with Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Hine following the draft, Crawford Richmond – who played college basketball at Long Beach State – raised many eyebrows when he said his nephew is “way better” than No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving.

But that’s just a juicy nugget you’d expect to hear from a talented player’s family member.

Most of the hullabaloo surrounds Crawford Richmond’s accusation that Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard was one of the negative voices in his nephew’s ears. Crawford Richmond said Howard consistently told Jereme that he was a “one-and-done” prospect in order to keep him committed as a high-school prospect.

Crawford said similar comments from media, friends and agents made Jereme Richmond believe he was a sure-fire first-round pick, despite pleas from his family to return to school.

“I would never want to talk to Jerrance Howard again in my life,” Crawford Richmond said.

The Illinois staff obviously was not very happy about the stories. But Hine told me Monday evening that he gave both Howard and head coach Bruce Weber multiple phone calls to ask them for comment on what the uncle said. He also told them when the story would be published.

Howard did not return calls and Weber responded with a simple text message: “Very tough situation! Hope Jereme can still reach his goal and will help him anyway we can!”

Since joining the Illinois staff in 2007, Howard has been a recruiting wunderkind. He’s almost single-handedly reinvigorated Illinois’ recruiting efforts, helping Weber tap into Chicago and nab three straight top-25 recruiting classes.

Howard has received praise from local and national media alike, received interest from other programs and subsequently twice given raises from Illinois.

This is one of the first times Howard has received negative press for allegedly telling Richmond following the departure of Tracy Webster – Richmond’s lead recruiter as a high school underclassmen – from the Illini staff that he was a “one-and-done” prospect to keep the phenom from looking for greener pastures. Neither Howard nor Weber refuted Crawford Richmond’s claims.

If true, Howard did what he had to do to keep Illinois’ first McDonald’s All-American since Dee Brown, like most assistants across the country would. Is it right? That’s debatable, because it was entirely plausible for Richmond to play just one year at Illinois based on his talents. But for maybe the first time, Howard didn’t flash that trademark smile from something published in the media about him.

****

I didn’t put much thought into anything else Crawford Richmond said. But Bill Richmond, Jereme Richmond’s father, had some enlightening comments when he finally chose to speak to the Tribune following publication of his brother’s comments.

Bill Richmond confirmed that Jereme chose not to attend workouts but refused to say why. He also said that he advised his son to return to Illinois for his sophomore season.

He even went as far as saying his son “might have some sense of entitlement, based on being put in this position for so many years.”

And people say Bruce Weber is sometimes too truthful and throws his players under the bus. Bill Richmond’s comments may have been misguided if he was trying to help his son, but they sure seem truthful

Message boards, fans and even some media put out the vibe that Richmond– who committed toIllinoisafter his first high school games as a freshman – would be the savior of Illinois basketball and return the program to the Big Ten elite for the first time since a NCAA runner-up finish in 2005.

He was a top-30 national recruit, a McDonald’s All-American and Illinois Mr. Basketball as a senior. The 6-foot-7, highly skilled, athletic Waukegan product was the man, he was told. And he believed it.

Ignoring the rationale that a bench player (Richmond averaged 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds) on a mediocre Big Ten team with character concerns (he was suspended for one regular season game and the Illini’s two NCAA Tournament games for undisclosed reasons) isn’t the most attractive commodity to the NBA, Richmond foolishly entered the NBA Draft.

Sadly, that cost him a promising collegiate career. Now, it may cost him the once seemingly foregone conclusion that he would play in the NBA. With the league headed toward a likely lockout, even the NBA Developmental League is questionable for next season, and Europe doesn’t seem like the best place for a 19-year-old with maturity concerns. Ask Jeremy Tyler.

****

Jereme Richmond remains quiet. He never was very charming in front of the cameras, microphones and voice recorders, but he seemed to embrace the limelight when the publicity was positive. But as he did during his separate suspensions at Illinois, Richmondhas again run from the media when things aren’t going so well.

Another mistake for Jereme: his silence opened the door for his uncle’s controversial comments.

“He’s been humbled by this process, believe me,” his father, Bill Richmond, said.

For Jereme’s sake, let’s hope so.

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