By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
You would almost have to do this on purpose, to screw it up so badly.
It’s hard to accomplish, really, when you consider how many other stupid, spoiled babies surrounded by parasitic enablers have successfully gamed the college system for one year. There have been similarly bad kids with similarly bad parents who were able to do the dance right. You fulfill the ridiculous NBA age requirement, occasionally walk around campus with a book, indulge in a little “social life,” play your heart out and get out of there.
Leave it to Jereme Richmond and pretty much everyone involved with him to get every part of it wrong.
One year at Illinois, and Mr. Basketball is Mr. Out-of-Basketball.
The saga has been well chronicled. Recruited in eighth grade by a desperate Bruce Weber, Richmond bounced from one high school to another before becoming Illinois’ top player in 2010 and joining the McDonalds All-American team. He was a constant disciplinary problem, earning multiple suspensions for various insubordinations.
He didn’t have to listen to anybody, because his Illini ride was waiting.
With his belief that his NBA future was similarly certain, the behavior pattern continued in Champaign. He fought with teammates, berated coaches, attended practice and team functions on his own schedule, and didn’t even try to pretend that he was enrolled in any classes.
It ended as all had envisioned, but for the wrong reasons. Richmond was going to flunk out, and a faction of university officials wanted him gone. The jump to the pros provided cover for both the player and the school, with neither side racing out to proclaim that this was their call.
He jumped, and he’s still falling like Wile E. Coyote. All he needs is the sign in his hand that says “Yikes!”
No NBA team drafted him, largely because he chose to disappear from the radar screen by avoiding the important private workout circuit. He was an unknown with some upside and huge downside risk, and he decided, for whatever reason, to make himself even less known.
His angry uncle picked up the phone to make some embarrassing public comments over the weekend, blaming everyone but his nephew for his predicament. Richmond’s father is trying some limp damage-control today.
What would have been nice is for one of the concerned adults in Richmond’s life to tell him to stop acting like an ass and start listening to his coaches, but that might be asking too much.
The NBA looks like it’s going to lock out, so Richmond’s pathetic odyssey of self-destruction will take another turn. The NBDL would seem to be his better option, bouncing through cowtowns and showing over time that he can both play ball and play nice.
An exile overseas would work too, but I doubt the adjustment to Efes Pilsen in Turkey, Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga or Maccabi Haifa would go well, considering the problems he had dealing with the exotic, foreign culture of downstate Illinois.
It will take hard work to rebuild his game and his reputation – the kind of work he has never done. The opportunity will find him if he proves worthy, since the NBA has a short memory. But don’t count me among those expecting he has it in him.
Weber bet on Richmond and lost. The family treating him like a lotto ticket now realizes they missed most of the numbers.
Richmond lost his own bet on himself, and he didn’t even seem to know he was at the high-stakes table the whole time. Reckless, careless, and ignorant, and now busted.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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