Jereme Richmond Is A Man Of His Word

Three years ago, a high school freshman shook up the college basketball status quo by announcing for the University of Illinois after just one varsity game. Illini fans were excited but leery, having just experienced the loss of a star play who had committed early but changed his mind at the last minute. Today, Jereme Richmond made his decision official.

Today Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber received the signed tender signifying that Waukegan star Jereme Richmond would attend the UI next fall. It was an exciting day but also a relief for both.

Richmond is the 6'-6" manchild with fluid athleticism, a deft shooting touch and the court awareness to set up teammates with accurate passes. One might call his style that of a point forward. He has to play inside a great deal for his high school team, but he is most comfortable running the offense from the point. In other words, he can do it all.

Weber saw the tremendous potential in the young Richmond and made a command decision to offer him a scholarship earlier than he had ever done before. He got the commitment and then sweated out three long years before it could become official.

At the time of the commitment, Richmond and his dad Bill stated firmly the decision was genuine and would not be reversed. This was important after Indianapolis super Eric Gordon reneged on his Illini commitment to attend Indiana. Neither the Richmonds nor the Illinois coaching staff wanted a repeat of that debacle. None was forthcoming.

"I am a man of my word," Richmond stated recently. "I gave my commitment, and I want to uphold that. I want to reassure the fans I'm serious about this thing."

Richmond still has one more year of high school, one more basketball season before he can enroll officially at the UI. Still, the pressure is off with his signed scholarship letter now securely in the hands of Illinois officials.

"It's been a long time coming. I've been committed for a long time, so now I get to sign with the Illini. It's getting closer to me being down here. So I'm excited."

Richmond is ambitious, and he didn't want to be the only top player on the team. To that end, he has helped the Illini coaching staff encourage other top prospects to join them.

"We've worked hard recruiting. When I say 'we,' I mean myself, Bruce, Jerrance (Howard), Coach J (Jay Price). We've done a good job getting guys down here, and I'm excited."

Richmond joins fellow signees Crandall Head and Meyers Leonard for next fall's freshman class. They follow the foursome of D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Joseph Bertrand and Tyler Griffey in what should be a dynamic combination. More good ones are on the way next year.

If they work hard and mesh together, great things are possible.

"We're looking forward to getting down here, work hard and play hard together. Put all this talent on the floor. Final Fours, back-to-backs, whatever you say about it I'm excited."

Richmond led his Waukegan team to second in the state last year, and he hopes to improve on that this winter.

"We'll be all right. We've been in the gym a long time. We've worked hard since last summer, and we're ready to go back downstate."

He is one of the most elite players ever to sign with the Illini. Until last summer, he was consistently ranked among the top ten prospects in the country. A couple underwhelming performances playing AAU ball lowered experts' opinions of him, but Richmond isn't concerned about that.

"Yeah, I got bumped down. I feel like I got better as a player, my teammates got better. So individual rankings don't mean much to me. I feel I'm better than last year. That's all that matters to me."

Richmond is an intelligent, highly aware young man. Perhaps early success went to head as he began underperforming in the classroom. But if recent improvements are any indications, he should be able to qualify for admission to the UI.

"I got straight B's last quarter, 3.0, so I'm keeping that up so I can get my grades in shape to get down here. That's what's important. I knew I could do it. I took a little bump on the head to get me focused, and I'm trying a lot harder now."

When he applies himself, Richmond is a good student and a great basketball player. Illinois is counting on both.

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