Commentary

Grab your seats ....

Waukegan's Richmond, Ames (Iowa) Barnes face off on ESPN on Thursday

Updated: December 17, 2009, 10:47 AM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

Pit two of the nation's top point guards against each other, and the entertainment is likely to be extraordinary ball handling and passing. Two top shooting guards can provide fans an abundance of scoring. Two elite post players can deliver the sort of power and finesse crowds seldom see inside the paint.

Then, there's a matchup like Thursday's on ESPN between 6-foot-8 Harrison Barnes of Ames (Iowa) and 6-7 Jereme Richmond of Waukegan (Ill.), where both can do it all. They shoot. They pass. They post up. They score inside and out. They dribble. They rebound. They block shots.

"They're elite small forwards," ESPN Scouts Inc. national director of basketball recruiting Paul Biancardi said. "Barnes has a complete offensive game. Richmond has a talented offensive game. Both are long, athletic. They can play on the perimeter, and they can go in the post when they need to.

"They have the ability to get double-doubles. I wouldn't be surprised if either one of those guys gets a triple-double."

Barnes is the more touted of the two. He's ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2010 by Scouts Inc. and chose to attend North Carolina in November.

Richmond is considered the fourth best small forward and is ranked No. 17 overall. He has been committed to Illinois since his freshman year.

This won't be the first meeting of the two. Barnes and Richmond have faced each other a couple times on the club circuit. Neither could recall the exact results, though.

"He's put up points," Richmond said. "I've put up my points. A player with his game, you're not going to shut him down. You got to limit his shots and make it hard for him."

There is a mutual respect that both players posses for each other. They got to know each other as teammates at the Nike Global Challenge and have kept in touch since. Leading up to Thursday's game, the two have chatted through texts, but it hasn't been the trash-talking variety.

"Jereme and I are good friends," Barnes said. "I wouldn't say it's a big rivalry game. The one thing we share is we're both driven and want to be extremely successful. & I'm not going to make it a 1-on-1 battle with Jereme. It's Waukegan vs. Ames. Hopefully us trying to win is entertaining enough."

Richmond downplayed the individualism of the game as well.

"It's exciting that everyone wants to see the match up," Richmond said. "Everyone wants to see the No. 1 player in the country go against one of the top players in the country, you can say. It's exciting, but me and my guys aren't focusing on that. We're going to go out there and try to get the W. Individual stats don't mean anything to me. If he has a better game and we get the W, I'm happy with it."

Ames is off to a 3-0 start to the season. None of its games have been close, and Barnes has scored 20, 22 and 31 points.

Waukegan, which is 6-2, snapped a two-game losing streak with a win over Maine South on Tuesday. Richmond had nine points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in the win. In the Bulldogs' season-opener, Richmond had 31 points and 26 rebounds.

"I think we'll see two very good basketball teams play very hard," Ames coach Vance Downs said.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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