ESPNChicago.com's Athlete of Week
Waukegan's Jereme Richmond is ESPNChicago's boys basketball player of the year
No Illinois high school basketball player has ever had their career magnified like Jereme Richmond.
From his commitment to Illinois as a freshman to his transfer to Waukegan as a sophomore to his departure from the team later that year to the possibility of him reopening his recruitment to leading the Bulldogs to the state title game to his play during the summer on the AAU scene to signing his letter of intent to him being named a McDonald's All-American to this story, Richmond's every move on and off the court has been dissected, discussed and documented.
His name has been brought up in newspapers, magazines, ESPN, recruiting Web sites, countless high school and college basketball message boards, Twitter, Facebook and surely plenty of other places.
"There hasn't been a young man who has been scrutinized more than this kid," Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw said. "I'm sure that's been one of the biggest challenges for him. Players of previous generations didn't have to navigate through all that scrutiny."
Richmond has dealt with more than anyone can imagine over the last four years. While he's had his ups and downs, he has pushed on. And on the court as a senior, he once again proved himself as the state's premier player, and for that he is the ESPNChicago.com Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
"I remember a conversation I had with Jereme during my first year at Waukegan," Ashlaw said. "I was getting caught up in the blogs and news. He was the first one that said to me, 'Don't read that stuff. They don't know what's going on. They're not in the locker room. They're not in the games.' That always stayed with me. Those were pretty wise words. He was 15 at the time.
"When you're flooded and inundated by it like he his, he's doing a great job with it. As far as his basketball career goes, that will go with him. The next Twitter, the next thing, that's what will chronicle his career."
Richmond has come to terms with that. He decided long ago that if given the choice between being famous and unknown, he would prefer to be where he is now.
"Sometimes, it's tough," Richmond said. "I can't do normal things. At the same time, I've been taught a lot of life lessons at an early age. I've learned just how to carry myself in different situations. Being young and being in the public eye is not always a good thing, but it teaches you how to act in different situations.
"I always say, 'What if I was on other end? What if nobody knew who I was and didn't talk about me?' I'm so used to hearing my name."
Outside of Richmond, the one person who was responsible for him becoming a household basketball name at such an early age was Illinois coach Bruce Weber. Weber saw too much size, skill and potential to pass up and offered Richmond as a freshman. Richmond, of course, accepted.
Nearly four years later, Richmond, now 6-foot-7, has turned into everything Weber dreamed.
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Richmond's senior season numbers prove that. He's averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, three blocks and one steal.
ESPN recruiting coordinator Reggie Rankin was in Chicago to observe Richmond's 16-point, 13-rebound, seven-block and four-steal game against Whitney Young in the City-Suburban Showdown in February. Richmond's all-around dominance reaffirmed why he's ranked among the top players in the country and even impressed in a few areas he hadn't before.
"Richmond is a combination of talent, size and skill," Rankin said. "He is an athletic, above-the-rim finisher on the break and with a clear path in the half court. What makes this wing special is his skill package -- pass, dribble shoot.
"He shoots over smaller defenders with ease with 3-point range and was a defensive presence as well where he blocked shots on and away from the ball when saw him at the City-Suburban Showdown. Richmond displayed more toughness than I have seen in the past and was providing leadership for his teammates on the floor and in the huddle on the bench."
City/Suburban Hoops Report recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen has seen Richmond as much as anybody over the last four years. Henricksen has witnessed Richmond take steps throughout that time.
"Jereme Richmond has grown as a player on the floor, maturing to the point where some of the things that impacted and affected his play and game in the past no longer do," Henricksen said. "It's very rare at the high school level to find a player that dominates like he does on the defensive end. His presence in blocking shots, cleaning up the defensive glass, really sets the tone for that team as they are capable of getting out and being aggressive with their trapping, knowing Richmond is behind them as the last line of defense.
"Though he has been a mercurial star over his career, one thing has been a constant in that he has never been a selfish player in terms of forcing things, taking bad shots. He's a multi-talented player with court savvy and unmatched skills for a player his size in the state of Illinois."
It's those skills that led to Richmond being named a McDonald's All-American. While Richmond rarely expresses a lot of emotion and doesn't let onto whether he's excited about something, especially to the media -- he downplayed the chance to appear on ESPN earlier this year -- his McDonald's All-American selection was big enough for him to take down his guard.
"Being young, I never thought I'd have a chance to play in the game," Richmond said. "To be a part of that group, nobody can take that away from me. That will be my special place in history."
As Waukegan began the Class 4A playoffs this week, there is one another achievement that would put Richmond in special company.
"I think he feels good about the recognition that he's brought to the program and his team," Ashlaw said. "I think like any kid he also has a bigger goal in mind. Whenever conversations come up, he talks about the team goal of winning a state championship. His one goal is to get back to Peoria and win that last game."
Richmond said, "It means everything. I don't remember wanting to win so bad in my life. So this championship will solidify me as a winner and cap my career the right way."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
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