Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another Charlotte Observer article

Davidson's Richards steady but not flashy
PG stepped up to lead Wildcats

DAVIDSON - No one notices Jason Richards as he sits next to his Sleep America Tournament Most Valuable Player trophy at the Davidson Student Union.

He's in a black Davidson basketball sweatshirt and jeans, but you'd think someone would come over, at least to ask about his unusual trophy. It has real black and white bird feathers sprouting all over it. It looks like something you'd win at a local fair, not in a December tournament with Division I schools N.C. A&T, Ohio and Arizona State.

To other teams, Richards must look like someone Davidson plucked off an intramural team. A 6-foot-2 junior, he is not the fastest point guard and doesn't jump high. He hadn't started a game for before this season.

His looks make him blend in. His play makes him stand out.

Richards ranks second nationally with almost eight assists a game and is third on the team in scoring, averaging almost 14 points. He rarely comes out of games -- Davidson (16-3, 7-0 Southern) struggles when Richards sits -- and his steady play has helped the Wildcats build a 12-game winning streak entering today's game with Appalachian State (13-5, 5-2).

"He's been an incredibly consistent quarterback for our team," coach Bob McKillop said. "He's been the full package -- a leader, scorer and playmaker."

That kind of contribution seemed unlikely from a player who came off a disappointing NCAA Tournament game against Ohio State in March. Richards played six minutes and had three turnovers in the 70-62 loss.

"When you don't play well, it sticks with you," he said. "I learned a lot from that game."
Richards came back ready to erase all doubts. Seven seniors graduated, including starting point guard Kenny Grant. Richards knew this had to be his team.

"He just took over what was his role -- being a leader and running the team," senior John Falconi said.

"You could tell how good he was going to be."

That wasn't always the case. He had always been in the basketball shadows -- his older sister Lindsay was a McDonald's All-American in high school and she went on to play at Iowa. His parents played at Pittsburgh. Jason struggled to get Division I offers before finally choosing Davidson over Colgate.

"Oh yeah, I kept hearing `Man your sister is better than you,' " Richards said. "I was just known as `the brother of Lindsay Richards.' "

With that, he leans back and laughs. He's comfortable with where he is -- he chose Davidson for its community atmosphere, where the basketball players are treated the same as the chemistry majors. There are only 1,700 students, so most everybody knows each other.

"It's pretty peaceful here, and that's kind of nice," Richards said. "It's such a different atmosphere than the bigger schools."

That allows Richards to blend in even more. So, even though he's become the anchor of the team and one of the best players in the Southern Conference, Richards can hide behind his gaudy trophy.

"I'm just gaining more confidence with each game," he said. "I know some people look at me as nothing to worry about, but I want to prove them wrong."

No comments: