Finally, D.J. Richardson Is Ready To Play

The Fighting Illini basketball team includes four freshmen who bring energy, enthusiasm and considerable talent to the table. But when discussions of a starting lineup occur, one is listed most frequently for that role. Peoria's D.J. Richardson has the experience and maturity to step in and be a solid contributor on both offense and defense his freshman year.

D.J. Richardson committed to Illinois early in his junior year at Peoria Central High School. Concerned about his academic eligibility for college, he made the difficult transition to Findlay Prep School in Las Vegas, Nevada, for his senior season.

Now, he is finally living his dream of playing for the University of Illinois.

"It feels pretty good. It was a long time for me to get here. Throughout the season at Findlay, throughout my career, it seems like it has taken a long while to get here."

Richardson is confident without a trace of arrogance. He says he isn't nervous about playing college ball.

"Yeah, I think I can help alot. I provide a lot of energy in practice and open gym. I can do a lot for the team, and I'm ready for the season.

"I feel like I'm ready to go. I feel more like a sophomore, and I handled conditioning pretty well as well, thanks to Las Vegas and prep school."

That prep school season allowed him to acclimate to the rigors of a lengthy basketball season, frequent long trips, and high level competition. He listed some of the talents he feels can help the Illini.

"Energy, defense, penetrating inside the lane and scoring or dishing out to the big men."

Defense is important to Illini coach Bruce Weber, and Richardson has the background and desire to be a defensive stopper.

"Defense is the key. That's all we do in Peoria. I learned a lot playing with players like Jamar Smith, my brother, so it was a great experience for me to go to Peoria and then out to Vegas. I was always built up to be a good defensive player."

Demetri McCamey is the starting point guard, but Weber has tried Richardson at point as a possible backup. He has demonstrated aptitude for the position.

"It's actually coming along pretty well for me. I come in here alot and work on ball handling drills. And I've gone to the ARC to work on some things. I've learned a lot of stuff from Demetri. He has helped me know what to watch out for."

There is no doubt Richardson is a natural shooting guard. He led the Illini with 19 points in the scrimmage at Illini Madness, including 3 threes and a dunk. But he also has the ability to find his teammates and the willingness to give them the rock when open.

"I'm a shooter. I've been a shooter all my life. But I'm a pass-first guard. I like to get my teammates involved. When the time comes, I always like to get my points. I learned in my younger years you can't win by yourself. So I do what is best to help us win."

The 6'-2" athlete led all Illini in the mile run this fall despite being diagnosed with a breathing disorder.

"I don't think asthma will affect me that much. I didn't really feel I have asthma. But in open gym I was breathing hard and getting tired. So they tested me, and I have asthma. They gave me an inhaler and pills to take, so those help me breathe better."

He wears number 1, and he will likely be a fan favorite with his hustle and all-around skills. But that was not his preferred number. McCamey had that already.

"32 was gone. I had that throughout my high school career. So I picked the #1 for my brother. He likes Tracy McGrady, so I decided to make him happy and take Tracy McGrady's number."

He will likely make a lot of Illini fans happy over the course of his career also.


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