A consensus top-30 recruit and McDonald's All-American last season, Jereme Richmond
has had an inconsistent rookie campaign littered with moments of brilliance, including an 18-point 10-rebound outing against Ohio State in late January. After dealing with some personal issues that caused him to miss a few practices and sparked rumors of a mid-season transfer, Richmond has since reaffirmed commitment to the Illinois program despite its difficulties in Big Ten play.
Though Richmond hasn't had a tremendously productive season, nor does he possess a reputation for fundamentally sound play offensively, he is amongst the most impressive physical specimens in NCAA basketball and a legitimate NBA prospect because of it. Tremendously long and athletic, Richmond has great speed in the open floor, explosiveness, and a frame that has room for additional muscle. He's an emotional player, who can get his team going with a highlight reel play, but needs to hone his basketball IQ and skill-level.
Richmond's potential is most notable on the defensive end, where he's been very good for stretches this season despite his inexperience. He has struggled at times against more aggressive, experienced slashers and savvy pick and roll-oriented scorers, but he's shown the tools to defend the perimeter effectively and could emerge as a high-level defender with additional coaching and strength.
Richmond's ability to defend the perimeter is important because at just 6'6, he has spent most of his time playing a power forward-type role offensively for the Illini in the high post to allow Mike Davis
and Mike Tisdale to using their shooting ability stepping out on the baseline. Despite showing a raw versatility and midrange game that give him intriguing upside, most of his offensive possessions come from basic hustle plays and post-ups against smaller guards off of switches. An extremely effective finisher and rebounder thanks to his leaping ability, Richmond flashes a hook shot that could be an asset to him against smaller players if he continues to develop it down the road.
Richmond's knack for making plays at the rim is a big part of his contributions in the college game, but the development of his perimeter scoring arsenal will dictate his long-term success. He shows soft touch when shooting inside and good follow through on occasion, but the rhythm and release point of his jumper remain inconsistent and will limit his ability to play the wing full time in the NBA early on. He's made just two 3-pointers in 27 games thus far this season.
The 18 year old forward also has plenty of room to grow as a slasher. He has the first-step and rangy stride that could make him a handful to keep out of the lane, but lacks the ball-handling ability and strength to confidently get to the rack. Very raw on the whole, Richmond is the type of player who will coast for long stretches before making one great play seemingly every game to remind you of how good he might be down the road.
If Richmond can develop the capacity to knock down catch and shoot jumpers from the outside, play low-mistake basketball and emerge as a lock-down defender, he has the potential to fill a highly coveted role in the NBA. With Mike Tisdale, Demetri McCamey
, and Mike Davis
all graduating, Richmond could be in position to have a breakout year in 2012, but his physical tools make him a potential first round pick as soon as this summer if he feels the urge to make the leap early. Something of a blank slate at this point, Richmond has plenty of improvements to make and plenty of time to make them whether it is on a NBA bench or in Champaign.