Upstart with upside

A basketball player versatile enough to play all five positions for his high school team is visiting Tennessee's campus this weekend.

Josh Richardson, a 6-5, 180-pounder from Edmond, Okla., projects to be a combo guard at the collegiate level, despite his diverse background.

"Josh's versatility is the first thing that sets him apart," Santa Fe High School coach Shawn Schenk told InsideTennessee by phone. "He played all five positions for us, and we play in the largest classification in Oklahoma. He's coachable enough to do that but we've known all along he'd be a point guard or off guard in college."

Richardson played the point as a senior, averaging 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals per game, according to his coach.

"He could've scored a whole lot more if he hadn't played point," Schenk said. "He shot 56 percent from 2 and 36 percent from 3. When a kid shoots like that, you can give him the green light and let him shoot every trip downcourt. He was too unselfish to do that."

There aren't many 6-5 point guards but Schenk suggests that may be Richardson's best position. He played it well enough in 2010-11 to lead Santa Fe High to a 20-6 record and the Final Four of the state playoffs for the third time in four years.

"He has a great understanding of the game, and his skill set enables him to handle the ball well enough to play the point and defend the point," the coach said. "He shot 36 percent from 3 this year, yet some people think he's not a great shooter. He can get to the basket with either hand. He's real long and athletic and can make plays. With a 35-second clock you need a guy who can create, and he can do that."

Although his season high for scoring was 31 points, his coach says Richardson's best overall game came against heralded arch-rival Putnam City, when he produced 28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals.

New Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin has made no secret that hardnosed defense is the cornerstone of his basketball philosophy. That being the case, Josh Richardson should be a good fit.

"He's a great defender," Schenk said. "He can guard multiple positions. We put him on opposing point guards because he bothered people with his length and athleticism. He stops people from getting into their offense. He's probably further along defensively than offensively, and that's saying something."

In addition to offensive skills and defensive skills, Richardson apparently has considerable life skills.

"Another thing that separates him is his character," Schenk said. "As great a player as he is, he may be an even better kid. The kid lives right. He's not out there at night partying and drinking. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's living a clean and moral life."

Scout.com has this to say about him:

"Richardson is a very athletic, skilled wing that has flown somewhat under the national radar. He started to receive notice playing in the Nike EYBL, where his athleticism, ball-handing and ability to create a shot, as well as his quickness on defense, really stood out. His outside shoot is still developing, but with his ability to defend multiple positions because of his athleticism and length, and his ball-handling ability, Richardson is almost certainly a high-major prospect. A good student, Richardson wants to study to be a doctor."

As a senior Richardson was voted all-state and MVP of the Metro-Athletic Conference, which his coach called "probably the best conference in the state." He was named to the state's "Super Five" for all classifications as a junior and senior, meaning he was regarded as one of Oklahoma's top five players in 2010 and again in 2011.

In addition to Tennessee, Richardson is considering Penn State, Texas Christian and Missouri State.

"Wherever he goes, they're going to get a great kid with a lot of upside," Schenk said. "He's only 17. His body is going to continue to develop and mature, and so will his game. He's a great talent. He really is."


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