By Joe Henricksen
You just hope this isn’t the early stages of the young prodigy falling by the wayside or spinning out of control. However, the news that sophomore star Jereme Richmond has been kicked off the Waukegan basketball team isn’t the first eye-opening moment that would signify that possibility. Richmond, who is everyone’s No. 1 prospect in the talented Class of 2010, with the exception of the City/Suburban Hoops Report which elevated Rich South’s Crandall Head to the top spot in January, will in all likelihood be heading to his third high school in three years next fall.
The Hoops Report learned Richmond engaged in a verbal confrontation with Waukegan head coach Ron Ashlaw following the team’s game with Loyola Academy on Thursday night. The sad thing is, this is far from the only confrontation Richmond has encountered in his brief high school career. He was suspended early this season for three games due to an altercation with a teammate. He waged verbal wars on the floor with various players throughout the year, including last weekend’s high-profile contest at the City-Suburban Showdown against Iman Shumpert and Oak Park. The way Richmond has carried himself on the floor this season has been undesirable and not what you expect of any high school player, regardless of his status.
In the end, I really feel for Ashlaw. Here is a coach that is in his first year of a pretty high-pressure high school coaching job. You would think having one of the state’s elite players would make the transition easier. The opposite was true. I don’t care if Ashlaw is the best young coach in high school basketball, is above his head and clueless or somewhere in between. No coach should have to go through what Ashlaw has had to go through, especially at the high school level. This is stuff made for the NBA — player/coach confrontations, that is.
I could only shake my head when reading an article in the Chicago Sun-Times a few weeks ago where, basically, Ashlaw was thrown under the bus by Richmond and his father. When did we start having to hear publicly about how a high school coach is incorrectly using a player? Richmond’s father, Bill, was quoted saying Jereme “is playing a little out of position…. I say, Why are you on the baseline 90 percent of the time? And he says, ‘Dad, I’m not the coach.'”
This is still high school basketball, right? The matter of whether Richmond is being used correctly or not isn’t the issue. The issue is the platform and forum used. But to go public, in a major daily newspaper, questioning a high school coach? What happened to the old “Hey, coach, can we have a talk during your lunch period on Monday?”
Sadly, this is our culture today, especially in the world of big-time high school athletics. The actions and behaviors have slowly filtered down from professional sports to college and now to high school. Now you can only hope the Richmond camp gains some balance, because a flurry of questions and possible criticism will surely come his way. How will a young phenom handle that?