On Thursday night, as the NBA draft picks wound their way into the late reachers of the second round, Illinois forward Jereme Richmond -- once seen as a potential lottery-worthy talent -- never heard his name announced. Richmond's stock was no doubt hurt by NBA scouts' impressions of him as immature. His decision to leave Illinois after his freshman year was questioned by many as a premature one. His travails at Illinois, many of which are still unknown to the public, included alleged academics issues and poor relationships with coaches and teammates. Rumors of missed NBA workouts torpedoed what was left of his draft stock.
Now Richmond enters the strange limbo that is life as an undrafted free agent. He could land with an NBA team. He could find himself taking his talents to Europe. Either way, his NBA career -- which once seemed like a sure thing -- is now in serious doubt.
Needless to say, this turn of events did not sit well with Richmond's uncle, Crawford Richmond, who delivered some strong words on the topic to the Chicago Tribune's Chris Hine.
"NBA executives have to be a fool not to consider him," said Richmond's uncle, Crawford Richmond. "They have to be fools and they are fools, but what they're going to do is they're going to get him for cheap. He's going to play in the NBA."
Maybe so. But here's where things get a little bit crazy:
"He's way better than (No. 1 overall selection) Kyrie Irving," Crawford Richmond said. "He's right there with (North Carolina's) Harrison Barnes. I can't tell the difference. Jereme is soft spoken and he's different, but that doesn't make him a bad person."
"I'm tired of people talking about his character. I know he's a high character person," Richmond said. "Who's the judge and who's the jury?"
As good as Harrison Barnes? Better than Kyrie Irving? Come on ... really?
Crawford Richmond also cited the selection of former Washington State shooting guard Klay Thompson -- who was arrested in March on charges of marijuana possession -- in the first round as a bit of hypocrisy on the part of NBA general managers. Again, this is strong stuff:
"Jereme never has done a police crime. Never. I want you to quote that in your article," Richmond said. "What about (Thompson)? He got busted by the police, marijuana possession. And he goes first round?"
Richmond may have a point there; the NBA isn't always so consistent on the matter of character and intangibles. But in 2011, a marijuana possession charge isn't (and probably shouldn't be) enough to scare the NBA away. Thompson did enough in interviews and workouts to put concerns over the arrest to bed. By all accounts, Richmond's workouts weren't nearly as convincing.
The Illinois forward may still get his NBA career on track. Often, going undrafted can be a blessing a disguise. But if we're wondering where Richmond gets his outsized confidence despite his so-so production on the court, his uncle's comments are a pretty good place to start. Somewhere along the line, Richmond got some bad advice. Now he's paying the price. And no appeal from a family member is going to change that.
Update: The show goes on Monday. Bill Richmond, Jereme's father and the brother of Crawford Richmond, had declined to comment to Hine until he saw his brother's comments in the Chicago Tribune Sunday. Those comments prompted Bill Richmond to discuss Jereme's situation with Hine Monday. In so many words, Bill Richmond disagrees with his brother, especially about Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who Crawford Richmond apparently blames for Jereme's hasty decision to leave the Illini:
"I would never want to talk to Jerrance Howard again in my life," Crawford Richmond said.
His brother disagrees, saying Crawford Richmond does not speak for the family.
"Jereme doesn't feel that way about the process, Illinois or Jerrance Howard," Bill Richmond said. "We love Jerrance. He's like a friend to me, he really is. He's a good guy and he's never done anything but try and help our kid get to where he wanted to go."
Bill also wanted to make sure Kyrie Irving's family, whom the Richmonds count as friends, weren't insulted by Crawford's statement that Jereme was better than Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft:
[...] "What I read (Sunday) morning was shocking," he said. "(Jereme Richmond and Irving) won a gold medal together (playing with USA Basketball) and they're friends. I don't want the Irvings to feel that's how we feel, because we don't," Bill Richmond said.
Bill Richmond confirmed to Hine that Jereme indeed missed workouts during his draft preparation. It appears those missed workouts had more to do with Richmond's plummeting draft stock than any perceived character issues, though you could argue that missed workouts speak to certain character issues (whether apathy or overconfidence or whatever you want to call it).
In any case, things may be a little frosty next time the two brothers talk. Good thing Thanksgiving is still months away, I suppose.