Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Article in Charleston paper

Davidson's Richards making his point

As Davidson's basketball team rides an 11-game win streak in today's game with The Citadel, coach Bob McKillop is bemused by all of the "Are you surprised?" questions he receives - even though his fellow Southern Conference coaches picked the defending league champion to finish a lowly fourth in the South Division.

As McKillop told one out-of-town reporter last week, "I've seen a lot more practices than you have."

Case in point, and at point guard - junior Jason Richards, a two-year backup who is making a case for all-SoCon honors this season, averaging 13.7 points and a league-best 7.7 assists for the 15-3 Wildcats, who lead the SoCon South with a 6-0 record.

For two seasons, Richards seemed just a reliable role player on teams that went 43-20 and were dominated by standouts such as Brendan Winters, Ian Johnson, MattMcKillop and Kenny Grant. But when point guard Grant and six other seniors left after leading the Wildcats to the NCAAs last season, McKillop had no qualms about turning over his team to the 6-2, 190-pound Richards.

"He knows it is his team," McKillop said. "We've clearlydefined his role this year, and I told Jason he had to put his imprint on this team and play 30 to 35 minutes a game. He's embraced that, and has really taken control of this team in the backcourt."

Richards is from Barrington, Ill. - McKillop's roster includes players from five states and four countries - and comes from a basketball family. His sister plays at Iowa, and both parents played at Pittsburgh. And he showed flashes of his current form last year, when as Grant's backup he scored 13 points in an overtime win against St. Joseph's and went for sevenassists in 12 minutes in a 80-55 win over Chattanooga in the SoCon championship game.

"It was really a roller-coaster ride for Jason last year," McKillop said. "But this year, he's been much more consistent."

Richards has led the team in assists in 14 of 18 games this season, including 19 in a 116-55 win over Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 15. And he scored 25 points as Davidson upset Arizona State on Dec. 22. In an 81-73 win over College of Charleston on Jan. 6, Richards had 18 points and eight assists.

Many of those assists go to freshman guard Stephen Curry, son of ex-NBA star Dell Curry. Stephen is averaging 19.1 points and looks like a lock for SoCon freshman of the year. "(Jason) lets me get open shots on the wing, and feeds our post player so well," Curry said after the Charleston game. "He really takes the pressure off."

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