Richmond seeks new start with Sauk Valley

Jereme Richmond is eyeing another basketball comeback in attempt to put his troubled past behind him and has signed to play with the Sauk Valley Predators in the Premier Basketball League.

Richmond, a former McDonald’s All-American and Illinois player, is currently serving an 18-month probation sentence after pleading guilty to one count of unlawful use of a weapon on Jan. 23, 2012. He was originally arrested Aug. 9, 2011 after allegedly confronting his ex-girlfriend's father.

Richmond’s probation was temporarily lifted in October of 2012 and he spent a weekend in jail after testing positive for marijuana and failing to comply to other conditions of his probation. He has since followed his probation and had a status hearing in early January. His probation will be complete on July 23.

Richmond said Sunday he is ready to move on with his life and career.

“From now until July to even beyond that, I plan on being the best person I can be,” the 20-year-old Richmond said. “I’ve learned so much being in this situation. I’ve been humbled. Basketball is a gift. I’ve been showed the game can be taken away from you at any time.

“This time I’m around, I want to take advantage of the opportunity given me. The money isn’t important to me. It’s more important to play the game I love and not take it for granted.”

The 6-foot-7 Richmond also played with the Predators in Sterling, Ill. last season, but he had to leave the team in the playoffs because he was unable to travel outside of the state due to his probation. He averaged 13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in nine games with the Predators.

Richmond’s goal remains to play in the NBA. He appeared to be on track for that coming out of Waukegan High School. He was ranked No. 23 in the Class of 2010 by ESPN and was voted Illinois’ Mr. Basketball. He averaged 21 points, 11.5 rebounds, three assists and three blocks as a high school senior.

Richmond 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.

“That’s still my dream,” Richmond said of the NBA. “That’s still going to be my dream until I don’t play basketball. I know it’s going to be a process. There will be different leagues I’ll have to play in and places I will have to go. I’m up for the challenge.”

Predators owner Brad Grenoble would love for his team to be where Richmond begins that journey.

“How cool three years from now if it was Jereme dribbling for the (Philadelphia) 76ers or the (Chicago) Bulls or even in the D-League,” Grenoble said on Monday. “He’s only 20. That’s the cool part. He’s got his whole life ahead of him.

“He’s got to make the most of this chance. You can’t say now is the time, now is the time and you look around and he’s 24. We told him, ‘We want you to be here, but we want you to finish something this time. The last time you finished something was high school. We want you to finish this.’ He understands that.”

Richmond participated in a team tryout on Sunday. He said he felt rusty, but he was happy to be playing basketball again. Grenoble was glad to see Richmond in the gym again.

“The practice was at 9 a.m., and he showed up at 8:05 when my wife and I were just setting up,” Grenoble said. “I’m like, ‘Wow.’ You could tell he was excited and he stood out in the tryout. He has all the basketball talent in the world.

“When we worked out the negotiations with him, he stood up and had a smile on his face. He said, ‘I’m ready to play basketball.’ He just wants to move on.”

The Predators begin practicing on Feb. 25 and their first game is on March 9.