- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Former Illinois basketball player Jereme Richmond has agreed to a contract with the Sauk Valley Predators of the Premier Basketball League as the former prep star attempts to get his career and life back on track.
Richmond, a former McDonald's All-American from Waukegan, Ill., played the 2010-11 season at Illinois. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 31 games. He was suspended before the NCAA tournament for an athletic code violation and never suited up again for the Illini. He left school early for the NBA draft, but he was not selected.
Richmond was arrested Aug. 9, 2011, on felony charges of aggravated battery, unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated assault after allegedly confronting his ex-girlfriend's father. He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful use of a weapon Jan. 23 and was sentenced to 1-1½ years of probation.
The Premier League has nine teams based from Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to St. Louis. Richmond will attend his first practice with the Predators on Wednesday night and will play in a home game on Saturday. He will have to commute about three hours each way from his home in Waukegan to Sterling, Ill., for practices and home games.
"Really, they were the first people to reach out and offer me the second chance to play," Richmond said by phone on Wednesday. "It's not about the money aspect or anything. It's about getting back into basketball. As much as I love the game, I just want the feeling of competition, playing and getting a sweat.
"Driving three hours is worth it. I haven't been able to play basketball for 5-6 months now. Three hours each way is the least of my worries."
Richmond's brother Justin Richmond plays in the same league for the Chicago Muscle.
Part of Richmond's probation has been attending an anger management class twice a week for 10 weeks. He thought the classes were assisting him in a variety ways, including taking steps toward his ultimate dream of the NBA.
"The class has been helpful for me to find ways to deal with whatever I might have going on a day-to-day basis," Richmond said. "It'll translate to not only my legal situation, but prove to people I'm trying to improve as a person.
"The biggest thing all the general managers, coaches and scouts talk to me about was they don't question my ability on the court. It's a character issue I have to clean up, whether emotionally or making immature decisions. I think this a good chance to prove myself and handle myself off the court."
Richmond said he has continued to watch Illinois basketball and supports his old teammates and coach Bruce Weber.
"I've enjoyed seeing Meyers [Leonard] grow," Richmond said. "I've seen Brandon [Paul] have huge games. I know they've hit a dry spot the last couple games. I feel for them. I know what it feels like last year when we didn't play up to expectations.
"I know what [Weber] has done for me. He's always looked out for me. I just hope the best for him. I know he's a great coach."
Predators owner Brad Grenoble was ecstatic to give Richmond another shot at basketball.
"I'm a huge Illinois fan," Grenoble said on Wednesday. "My wife and I have watched Illinois. I just think he got himself into a little trouble, and I think everyone needs a second chance.
"I don't condone what he's done by any means. I also know kids make mistakes, and hopefully he's learned from his mistakes. He seems like a mature kid. I think he deserves a second chance. Some of the guys with a second chance run with it, and I hope he runs with it and makes the most of it."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
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