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Daily News' Vincent Bonsignore Slams
Ellis Richardson's Decision To Go Pro--(April 28,1998)

Ellis Richardson (6'-4" Sr. G) from Los Angeles Unified School District's Poly High, located in Sun Valley (just north of North Hollywood in the eastern San Fernando Valley) has decided to skip college and just go straight to the NBA.

What's wrong with that? Nothing except that Richardson is not considered by many to be a "blue-chip" prospect. His team finished 11-15 this year. In Division 3-A (the "smaller" school division of City Section; 4-A is for the larger schools, and generally bigger and "better" teams in City Section of CIF). Division 3-A isn't even eligible for the CIF Southern Region or State Championships.

He's also admittedly academically ineligible. So college, at least any four year institution is not an option. It's JC or the highway, get a job and be a citizen. But then the NBA is an option for a player, right?

Well, we cover lots and lots of games here in the San Fernando Valley (and throughout SoCal in general), and we've got to say that unless one was particularly attuned to Poly basketball doings, the name Ellis Richardson would probably evoke a lot of blank stares, even among those who follow hoops here in the Valley. Which is not to say he's a bad player, and which is also not to say the he can't make it in the NBA. But we'd bet against it.

So too, evidently would Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, who apparently feels very passionately about this subject. We wouldn't have written the story the way he did, and perhaps it's a bit harsh and judgmental, but then it's what Vince gets paid to do. And because the Daily News doesn't have a website, and can't be read by most of the folks who access our site, we reprint it here, in it's entirety (see our prior "fair use" caveats), solely for the educational value it has. By all means, if you can get the Daily News, go pay the 25 cents; it's well worth it, and it helps pay Vince's salary. Having said that, here's his take on Ellis' decision to jump to the pros:

Time For Richardson To Wake Up
By Vincent Bonsignore
Daily News

We don't want to stomp on anybody's dream. If Ellis Richardson thinks he can go directly from Poly High to the NBA, more power to him.

But Richardson should reconsider his decision Sunday to bypass college and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft in June. He should come to his senses, realize he is not phycially, emotionally, or mentally ready to play professional basketball, and back out before it's too late.

The question isn't whether or not Richardson can play profressionally. He can't; he's not good enough. The question is preserving his NCAA eligibility, which he forfeits when he officially declares for the draft.

"There are exceptions for current 'student-athletes' (in college), not 'prospective student-athletes'", said Steve Mallone of the NCAA. "Once he makes himself available, he will jeopardize his college basketball eligibility status."

That means Richardson will never get the chance to play at UCAL, Arizona State or Long Beach State. His only alternative would be to play at a junior college and then at an NAIA school.

Richardson might be aware of the ramifications, but is he sure he understand them?

"I know wheat I can do and the people close to me know what I can do," said Richardson. "As long as I get the chance to show what I can do and prove myself, I'll be fine. I don't think I'm making a bad decision at all."

Richardson, a 6-foot-4 guard, is a decent player who didn't standout out during his career at Poly. He isn't listed on any major-college scouting lists, and no pro tem will consider him on draft day. Two well-known scouts who were contacted on Monday said they had never heard of him.

He isn't Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, two NBA players who skipped college to turn pro. And he is nowhere close to Korleone Young and Rashard Lewis, two current prep stars who declared themselves elgible for the upcoming draft. Even Young and Lewis are drawing criticism for their decisions, and they're high school All-Americans. Ellis Richardson didn't even make the Daily News All-Area team.

For some reason, Richardson doesn't think any of that matters. He seems to think that Jerry West will see something in him that dozens of scouts overlooked. Does he think he will make an impression, get drafted, make an NBA tema and live happily ever after?

If that happens, I'll be the first person to congratulate Richardson.

If Richardson follows through on his decision, not only will he not get drafted, he won't even get an invitation to an NBA camp and probably won't be considered by an overseas team.

It's all about skill level, and Richardson doesn't have it. Yet.

Maybe after he hones his game and grows over the next four years he'll be ready to play pro basketball. That's a long shot as it is. To assume he can leapfrog over that process right into the NBA is ridiculous.

What's even more ludicrous is the support Richardson is getting from his mother DeMetria, who is acting as her son's agent. DeMetria Richardson said that she is 100 percent behind Ellis. As far as not being a top recruit, DeMetria blames that on Ellis having played on an average team at Poly.

"Just because you don't win the state championship, people don't think you're any good," DeMetria said. "Maybe if he had played on a better team with a better coach, more people would be supporting the decision."

College basketball analyst Dick Vitale scoffs at the notion.

"In today's day and age, when a guy can flat-out play, believe me, everywhere you go, people will know who you are," vitale said. "Sure, there might be mistakes made on a blue-chipper who may slide a little bit in the draft, but believe me, scouts are not going to make a mistake on whether a kid can play or not."

DeMetria Richardson is doing her son a disservice by supporting him in this. DeMetria needs to tell Ellis that his best bet is to go to junior college and see what happens in two years.

Maybe none of this would matter if Richardson had the grades to qualify at a Division I college. But one assistant coach at an area shcool said he removed Richardson from a list of potential recruites after he saw Richardson's junior-year transcripts.

Even if Richardson did have the grades, it's not as if UCLA, Arizona or even USC seemed particularly interested. What makes him think the Lakers will draft him?

Poly coach Jay Werner thinks that Richardson's friends and family are feeding his ego by telling him he can play pro basketball.

"It's sad to hear that the people close to him are supporting this choice," Werner said. "Quite frankly, Ellis isn't ready to play college basketball. I think the people around him need to help him out a little more than they are."

Unfortunately, those closest to Richardson seem to be the ones pushing him the hardest to chase this far-fetched fantasy.

He'll soon find out that his dream of getting drafted is nothing more than that. I hope his friends will be there when he finds that out.

The Swish Award
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