At the 2012 Reebok Breakout Classic as a rising sophomore, Malachi Richardson stood out as a high-major scorer and potential star. His first contributions on the national circuit typically occurred from the perimeter. Then, as now, Richardson smoothly strokes jump shots from medium-range and beyond.
His sophomore season included impressive stops at various national events. By last January he had attracted overtures from Indiana, Syracuse, Villanova and Ohio State, along with numerous others. His high school teammate, Tyler Roberson, already had chosen the Orange and thus Jim Boeheim's program appeared well positioned in Richardson's recruitment as well.
He cemented a national ranking during the spring and summer. He impressed me in July with his ability to knock down one- and two-dribble pullups. His scoring offense in some respects resembles that of an NBA wing more closely than it does college scorers, but he should excel at the college level, too.
His recruitment appeared to be nearing an end this past fall. He cut his list to Syracuse, Villanova, Arizona, Rutgers, Indiana and Connecticut, with an eye toward announcing by the end of the calendar year. He pledged to the Orange in mid-December, choosing the school that many expected him to select from the beginning.
Richardson is a great fit for Syracuse. He stands 6-5 and possesses an extraordinary, 6-10 wingspan, and thus one can imagine just how effective he may become in the club's famed zone defense.
But offense is where he makes his name. He buries jumpers and has improved enough athletically to take opponents off the dribble when they play him too closely for his jump shot. He's also a reasonably good finisher despite being just okay explosively, thanks again to that abnormal wingspan. Moreover, he has created balance due to his shooting from multiple ranges. He isn't only a three-point specialist and thus can capitalize on whatever opportunities avail themselves.
Richardson should focus on two areas between now and enrolling at Syracuse. Like most high school athletes, he needs to gain muscle. The good news is that his frame is solid and he should be able to add the strength easily, without becoming bulky and losing flexibility or quickness.
The other aspect is mental. He can be far too passive for a player with his ability, and the next few months I'm eager to see if he'll embrace the idea of being an alpha dog in the Class of 2015.
Given that he'll provide immediate offensive and defensive utility for the Orange, the program understandably is thrilled to hold his early commitment.