Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cagers consider NBA

January 23, 2001
Sophomore guard Jason Richardson celebrates with freshman center Zach Randolph after Richardson —

The only thing elevating more than Jason Richardson dunking over opponents this season could be his professional stock as an NBA prospect.

Richardson is averaging 16 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season and has scored in double figures in 14 of No. 3 MSU’s 16 games.

But don’t tell the sophomore guard he’s ready to bolt East Lansing and strive to “go green” for millions of cash.

“I really haven’t thought too much about it,” Richardson said. “I’m going to wait until the end of the season and talk with my family and Coach Izzo. I look at guys like (NBA rookies) Morris (Peterson) and Mateen (Cleaves) and how they stayed in school and didn’t leave early. I really listen to their advice and take it seriously.”

MSU head coach Tom Izzo said no matter what decision Richardson makes at the end of the season, he’ll be able to handle the pressures involved with it.

“Some guys are mature enough to handle it and I think he is one of them that is,” Izzo said. “I think he has been great about it.”

Richardson said there are a number of factors involved when an underclassman is looking to pursue an early career in the NBA.

“Most people look to go pro to support their family while there are others that don’t want to go to college and do school work,” Richardson said. “My most important thing based on my decision will probably be my family situation.”

With so much national recognition, including The Sporting News - ranking him one of the most improved players in the nation - Richardson says he doesn’t pay too much attention.

“There have been a lot of distractions being on magazines and things like that,” Richardson said. “That’s where I remember guys like Mateen, who was on the cover of all those magazines last year. He tells me to not get too caught up with it and keep working hard.”

Richardson, a former Michigan high school “Mr. Basketball” award winner at Saginaw Arthur Hill High School and known as a role player on a championship team last season, is also giving advice to freshman center Zach Randolph.

“I talk to Zach about it since he’s in the same situation I am in,” Richardson said. “I tell him not to worry about it and to stay focused.”

Walt Perrin, Detroit Pistons director of college scouting for the past seven years, said more NBA teams are forced to looking at underclassmen now that there are a large number that leave early.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Perrin, who scouted Cleaves, now a starter with the Pistons. “We usually look for seniors since they are more mature and have a better understanding of the game, but if not we have to take a look at all players.”

Earning MVP honors in three high school all-star games last spring, Randolph said his future is still uncertain.

“It’s going to be a tough decision and I’m going to have to do what’s best for me,” Randolph said. “But as of right now I’m staying here for four years.”

Randolph, who’s averaging 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists this season, said he has sought advice from rookies in the NBA.

“I talk to my friend (Los Angeles Clippers forward) Darius Miles about once a week and he loves it,” Richardson said. “He’s a good player and he loves the people. Plus, he’s a competitor, not just a guy who has $10 million for nothing - he works hard and tries to get better everyday.”

Rated by ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale as the nation’s “No.1 Impact Freshman,” Randolph said he’s able to take the notoriety and acclaim in stride.

“I think I have handled everything pretty well,” Randolph said. “Right now I’m just focussed on winning and improving my play.”

Izzo said he has given advice to both players on how to handle the situation and has been pleased with how they have responded, especially to the added pressure.

He added that he will sit down at the end of the season and help both players make an educated decision.

“I’ve talked to both kids a couple of times before the season started,” Izzo said. “I talked to them once during the season when I was concerned. It’s an everyday concern because of outside people. If you let the outside people get in the way, that’s a problem.”

Perrin, who could not comment on either player since they are still in school, said Izzo has done a good job in making MSU a premiere place for players to develop at the next level.

“Tom has his program at the elite level,” Perrin said. “His players play hard, play defense and have great leadership skills which are key in becoming a NBA player.”

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