Wisch: The Sad Case of Jereme Richmond

“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.

davewisch Wisch: The Sad Case of Jereme Richmond

Dave Wischnowsky

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.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    1. Sad. Tragic.
    2. Not fatal or final….he can make a u-turn if he puts his heart and soul (maybe for the first time in his life) into becoming a person.
    3. You have been totally out in front of this story; you have provided the finest reporting and analysis of any member of the media.
    4. Too bad this kid didn’t put himself under Bruce Weber’s wing. I know that some fans don’t like Bruce but he has always struck me (going back to SIU) as a character guy, a mentor, a second-father to kids.

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    Thanks much, Arse. Jereme is a compelling figure and I’ve long been fascinated by his journey from phenom to Illini to, well, unfortunately this. I had very high hopes for him at Illinois, but he certainly fell far short of that.

    The thing that won’t — or at least shouldn’t — be leaving him anytime soon is his God-given ability to play basketball. That’s still inside him and something he can, in theory, still capitalize upon. But he just keeps making the road to any kind of success more and more circuitous and fraught with peril.

    Right now, Jereme will be fortunate just to stay out legal courtrooms beyond his scheduled Aug. 18 appearance in Lake County, let alone find his way onto any kind of professional basketball court. We’ll see where he goes from here. Until further notice, however, none of the signs for his future are promising.

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    “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

    “Uh, you sure about that?”
    – Chris in Scottsdale thinking aloud, August 10, 2011

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Bear with me on this one.
    Several years ago, Dave published a book called “Northern IlliNOISE”.
    In that book, he did a chapter which began with the “Never give up” quotation from Winston Churchill…followed by an inspiring (90% of the book is inspiring, 10% is on the Cubs) story about people dealing in a very positive way with their mental illness.
    Someone needs to get this kid to not give up….and also get him evaluated profesionally.
    I am involved in labor and employment law issues, have been for 31 years. My experience, my “horse sense”. is that we have a mental health issue here, possibly bipolar, very lilely some Axis-II stuff such as narcissistic personality disorder and/or antisocial personality disorder.
    Rough stuff.
    If I were this kid…late as it is…I’d reach out to Bruce Weber for help too.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      I also meant to say that in my 31 years, overwhelmingly mental illness (and/or substance abuse) has played a part in someone’s employment misconduct or poor work performance (or both).

      No excuse, no alibi…just trying to focus on what truly can help.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        By the way, I highly recommend Dave’s book to everyone…superbly written, timeless tales, lots of depth and insight into the human condition, filled with unforgettable people, really uplifting and enjoyable.


    On the eve of an NBA lockout, he had advisors telling him to give up school.
    He needs to find a place that is away from that influence. Not going to be easy.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      That’s a very, very wise comment Spaulding!

      A lot of these guys live in a petri dish for problems.

  • jack

    another victim of the ‘basketball will solve all your woes’ mentality – have talent, work hard and don’t carry handguns in your car – those things might get you a shot at playing basketball. When all else fails – suck it up and get a job as a fry cook.

    For all those bestowing the MR BASKETBALL titles on kids – you are helping set them up for a lifetime of heartache and eventual failure

  • http://sparefoot.wordpress.com sparefoot

    This is so sad to hear. Jereme had so much potential as a future star basketball player, its a shame he had to go and waste his gift.

  • Dawg

    I remember in H.S , the varsity coach at that time was asking Jereme what to do & what plays to run… Weber was pumping him up since he was an 8th grader… now hearing agents/scouts were advising him to leave school…
    Jereme is not the only one to blame here, hope he gets some new friends, ones with futures that are not tied to your basketball career.

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Sad. Seemed too easy to connect the points on this story for quite some time. Sad.

    • Murphs Upper-Lip

      My daughter would have my Arse if she read that comment; connect the dots!

  • basketball teammates

    i feel u man imma get their soon though, Thanks

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