“Thanks to my haters and motivators. If I so happen to fail, I want my doubters to know that my failure is greater than your biggest success.”
— Jereme Richmond via Twitter, April 5, 2011
By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) During the last week of April, I took a phone call.
It was from an NBA scout. And it was about Jereme Richmond.
During our chat that afternoon, the scout told me that he was “sure someone will take Richmond” in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 23. Having closely followed the mercurial 2010 Mr. Basketball’s career throughout high school and during his one erratic season at the University of Illinois, I was skeptical, to say the least.
But, today, it strikes me again how, as recently as two months before this summer’s draft, someone in the NBA still believed that Richmond was talented enough to belong in the league.
Four months later, however, the 19-year-old former McDonald’s All-America instead finds himself sitting in a Lake County jail cell in lieu of $100,000 bond.
On Monday in his hometown of Waukegan, Richmond was arrested on charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, battery, disorderly conduct, possession of a firearm and assault.
According to Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Scheller, Richmond allegedly spit upon and threatened to shoot a 17-year-old ex-girlfriend outside her home after refusing to return a cell phone. The cops showed up just as he was searching for something inside a car that contained a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun as well as three other men, who also were arrested.
On Monday, the Tribune reported that the charges against Richmond, who was not drafted in June, have left “those who knew him as one of the state’s most promising basketball players wondering what went wrong.”
But it’s hardly as if something just suddenly went wrong with Jereme Richmond. Rather, with Richmond, wrong has unfortunately been a long time coming.
Back on April 12, a week after he announced that he was leaving Illinois after just one season and arrogantly tweeted: “If I so happen to fail, I want my doubters to know that my failure is greater than your biggest success,” I published a CBSChicago.com blog entry entitled, “The Curious Case of Jereme Richmond.”
I led off the piece by writing, “Sometimes, it was his jump shot. Oftentimes, it was his attitude. And, looking back now, it was almost always his expectations – both those that he had for himself, and those that his fans thrust upon him.
“But, no matter the circumstances, setting or situation, even when Jereme Richmond was on, something always seemed just off.”
Today, as the case of Jereme Richmond becomes a legal one, it’s no less curious. But now it’s just sad, as before even his 20th birthday, Richmond has already become a cautionary tale.
And as a friend pointed out yesterday, he’s also a classic example of what happens when you don’t tell a kid “No.”
In the Champaign News-Gazette on Tuesday, Illinois basketball beat writer Paul Klee reported that, “Richmond lost most of his teammates in early January when, on the eve of a game at Wisconsin, he left the team and traveled home without explanation.
“At the time Illinois coaches said he was dealing with ‘a personal matter.’ Assistant coach Jerrance Howard made his own trip to Waukegan to be alongside the freshman. ‘He just left,’ [Illinois head coach Bruce] Weber said after the season, offering (and needing) no further explanation.”
On Tuesday, Weber, always classy, said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with all the young people involved and their families as they work through this.”
At this point, it’s safe to say that nothing is certain about Richmond’s future. But what is known for sure is that the Illinois basketball program is far better off without him among its ranks.
Judging the entirety of his public behavior – which has included technical fouls, suspensions, fights with teammates and now a gun-related arrest – coupled with the countless unverified rumors that I’ve heard about Richmond behind the scenes, he smacks of a kid who had the frightening potential to bring down an entire coaching staff.
Instead, though, he’s brought down only himself.
And let down an entire state of basketball fans in the process.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.