In the long and twisted story of Jereme Richmond, several facts are indisputable. Richmond was one of the most talented basketball players to come out of the state of Illinois in the past 10 years, a prodigal talent who could have attended virtually any university in the country on scholarship. Instead, as a 14-year old high school freshman, he made a verbal commitment to stay at home and try to help reboot the state’s marquee program in Champaign, a decision he honored after twice leading his Waukegan Bulldogs down state despite constantly swirling speculation that he would eventually decommit. In the process, Richmond saw his name climb high on national recruiting rankings, was named a McDonalds All-American and became a two-time recipient of the Sun-Times’ Player of the Year award, something Derrick Rose couldn’t even say of his legendary tenure at Simeon.
In Champaign, Richmond’s career was, at best, underwhelming. He was thought by flocks of Illini message board fanatics to be the type of impact freshman who could transform the program, much in the same way Carmelo Anthony did at Syracuse. Instead, Richmond never stopped butting heads with his task master head coach Bruce Weber, fought through numerous off-the-court rumors and incidents and mostly came off the bench in his lone disappointing season at Illinois. Though it was evident to anyone with a trained eye that Richmond would have greatly benefitted from another year of Big 10 play, those who knew him were less than surprised after the swingman declared for the NBA Draft. The same people weren’t surprised either when Richmond’s name went uncalled on draft day. It appeared to be the low point for a basketball career that once seemed so promising.
Yesterday, Richmond’s story took a tragic turn. Per the Chicago Tribune:
He was arrested Monday on charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, battery, disorderly conduct, possession of a firearm and assault, leaving those who knew him as one of the state's most promising basketball players wondering what went wrong.
Richmond was being held in lieu of $100,000 bond after he was arrested after a confrontation in front of a Waukegan residence in the 3000 block of Golfmoor at about 12:30 p.m. with a female with whom he reportedly had been in a relationship. Police found a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun in a vehicle with three other men who also were arrested, according to Waukegan Police Commander Gabe Guzman.
Questions about Richmond’s character have followed him throughout his career, and for good reason. He famously fought with Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw after a state playoff game, occasionally clashed with reporters and routinely displayed the attitude of a supremely talented, supremely arrogant star athlete.
Make no mistake: because of the era he grew up in, Richmond had to deal with more scrutiny than perhaps any Illinois prep athlete ever. High school recruiting rankings can lead to ruthless discussion from scouts and fans on Internet message boards, and Richmond's talent and attitude made him a hotly debated topic. Even Rose, who graduated Simeon in 2007, didn’t have to put up with the conversation that swirls daily on sites like Twitter.
Scott Phillips is a reporter for Scout.com and the Chicago Sun-Times, and covered Richmond regularly during his time on the Illinois prep scene. He thinks facing constant scrutiny from such a young age could have played a strong role in Richmond's apparent downfall.
"By virtue of committing to the marquee state school as a freshman and playing in (basketball-crazed) Lake County, there always seemed just as much talk of (Richmond's) character as his game. I find it interesting how much he’s been in the eye of the public since he was really 14 or 15 years old. Nobody in the state in the last five or six years has come close to the amount of attention Jereme received, and that includes Rose, (Jon) Scheyer, Julian Wright and everyone else. It was just a perfect storm.
"I do think everything that happened is his his own doing. I just wonder if things would have turned out differently if he wasn’t living under such a microscope and having outside influences around him from such a young age."
Richmond should be prepping for his sophomore season at Illinois right now, gearing up to be the star of a young team. Instead, he's in a suburban jail cell. While much of the book on Richmond has yet to be written, the recent plot develops hardly foreshadow a happy ending.