By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Jereme Richmond could have been spending this weekend preparing to start his junior season at the University of Illinois.
Instead, he’s spending it in jail.
And for that sorry fate, he has no one to blame but himself.
On Thursday afternoon, I wrote a “What if” column about Ben Wilson, the Simeon High School basketball phenom who was tragically slain in 1984 at the age of 17 before he had a chance to fully mature – both as a player and a man.
Ironically, less than two hours after that story was published, we learned “What is” with Richmond, the onetime Waukegan High School phenom who, at the age of 20, still hasn’t matured as a man – and by this point, is unlikely to ever do so as a player, either.
Richmond, whose celebrated commitment to Illinois as a 14-year-old ended up lasting four times as long as his hoops career there, added to his criminal record on Thursday when he was sent back to Lake County Jail. Officials said that the wayward baller had failed to meet multiple conditions of his probation related to his guilty plea in January on charges of unlawful use of a weapon.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Newman told Judge John Phillips that on Oct. 19 Richmond tested positive for marijuana use, failed to comply with a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, and did not attend required orientation for domestic violence treatment.
With those three strikes against him, Newman asked the judge to count Richmond out by revoking his probation and putting him behind bars for the remainder of his 180-day jail sentence, which had been stayed. Richmond’s attorney, meanwhile, asked that his client be allowed to remain out of jail on a 24-hour curfew at his parents’ home and attend domestic violence and substance abuse treatment.
Deciding to ponder the issue – and likely make the accused sweat – the judge ordered Richmond held over the weekend in jail without bail and said he would take the issue up again on Monday morning, telling the former basketball star: “You are going to need to give your attorney an exact plan on how you are going to get to these (treatment) appointments.”
Getting to appointments hasn’t proven to be Richmond’s forte. In 2010, during his one season as an Illini, he left the team on the eve of a game at Wisconsin and traveled home to Waukegan without explanation. And earlier this year, after playing (and winning) 11 games with the Sauk Valley Predators of the Premier Basketball League, Richmond abruptly quit the team just before it was to fly to New York for a playoff game.
ESPN Films this week debuted “Benji,” the “30 for 30” series film about Wilson’s tragic tale. If Richmond doesn’t get his act together soon, it looks as if there may be a “Jereme” episode of “30 for 30” flickering across our TV screens some day down the line.
No one wants to see that. But whereas Wison’s story was both maddening and heartbreaking, Richmond’s story thus far is simply maddening. The only culprit in Jereme’s saga is himself.
As “Benji” showed, Wilson – who was once suspended from school for shoving a teacher and may have sparked the argument that led to his shooting death – likely wasn’t quite the angel that he’s often been portrayed to be since he was killed 28 years ago. However, whatever flaws Wilson might have had hardly merited a death sentence. But because he died, Wilson never got a second chance to learn from and correct any mistakes.
Richmond, meanwhile, has had a whole lot of “second” chances given to him by his high school, college and pro basketball teams – not to mention the court system. He just refuses to take advantage of them. That fact makes Richmond’s story sad like Wilson’s, but doesn’t make Jereme a sad figure like Ben.
It just makes him a frustrating one.
Here’s to hoping that Jereme Richmond can still ultimately get his act together. But the blame for his life unraveling falls squarely on his shoulders, no one else’s. And in spite of his self-imposed struggles and demons, Richmond’s blessing – if he can look at it that way – is he still has an opportunity to write a happy ending.
Ben Wilson surely would have given anything for that chance.
Remember that, Jereme.