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Ex-Illini Richmond shines in pro debut

Former Illinois player Jereme Richmond scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked three shots and had two steals in his professional debut for the Sauk Valley Predators of the Premier Basketball League on Saturday night.

It was Richmond’s first competitive action since playing for Illinois on March 11, 2011. Richmond went undrafted after leaving school after one season and got into trouble with the law soon after which derailed his professional career.

Richmond signed with the Predators earlier this week and first practiced with them on Wednesday.

“Man, to be honest, I almost was crying to be back out there competing with the guys, being tired and sweating, talking a little trash,” Richmond said by phone after the game. “I missed it so much. I didn’t know how much I missed until I got out there.

“I thought through all my trials and tribulations I lost my love for the game. To get back out there playing, the love has grown. To be called a professional at any level is an honor.”

Richmond was greeted with a warm welcome by 3,789 fans at Sterling High School in Sterling, Ill. and signed autographs after the Predators’ 103-94 win over the St. Louis Phoenix.

“I had people wearing Illinois stuff and screaming my name in warm-ups,” Richmond said. “I even had one guy tell me I’m the reason he came to the game. He hadn’t been to a game all year. I’m definitely happy I made this decision.”

Richmond and the Predators will next play against the Central Illinois Drive in Bloomington, Ill. on March 4.