Damon Richardson Jr. has been an out-of-nowhere success for the Iroquois High School boys basketball team.
In his first season of varsity hoops, the 6-foot, 140-pound senior combo guard is averaging a team-best 17.4 points per game while making 44 3-pointers and shooting 76.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Richardson has seven games with 25 or more points, including a high of 35 in a December win over Western Hills. The Raiders (13-14) have won as many games this season as they have in the previous two combined.
Q: When did you start playing basketball?
A: When I was 3. I just always had a ball in my hand. My dad (Damon Richardson Sr.) was good, so he always put a ball in my hand and pushed me hard to work hard. … He went to Butler High School. He’s on the wall (there).
Q: Did you play basketball before this year?
A: I played in middle school and elementary and AAU and I’ve always been good. My freshman year I played at Doss, and then after that I didn’t try out. Then I just hit a growth spurt and just started working on my game and got better. Then I came here. I just wanted to play because I never did try out before.
Q: How much did you grow?
A: I was 5-6 in the summer and I got to 6 feet.
Q: Were you expecting that?
A: I was surprised. Everybody in my family is short. Hopefully I’m still growing.
Q: When did you realize you could make an impact?
A: In AAU really. I was playing good in AAU. We went out of town and I scored my highest points ever, 43, and I was just like, ‘I’ve got to play this year.’
Q: What’s this season been like?
A: It’s been good. Everything’s just been smacking me in my face. I have never had (success), so it’s just a blessing.
Q: You’re the only senior on the team. What’s your role?
A: I’m a leader. I try to push everybody, try to be the leader on the floor, guide everybody to the right places, tell people the right stuff, not the wrong stuff.
Q: What are your strengths on the court?
A: I’m a good shooter and I can penetrate real well. I can beat my man off the dribble nine times out of 10. I’ve got a quick first step.
Q: Do you want to play in college?
A: Yes. Hopefully I can gain some weight because I got taller and now I’m long and skinny. I need to gain some weight. I’ve been drinking a lot of protein.
Q: What’s the goal for the rest of the season?
A: Our goal is to at least be over .500 again, try to push and win district and go to Rupp (Arena for the Sweet 16).
Q: What’s it been like playing for Coach Morrow?
A: He pushes me hard, he’s like a dad. He wants me to be successful. I never realized (I could) until I started playing. I realized what he wanted me to be. It’s good, even though he’s one of the hardest coaches I’ve had.
DAMON RICHARDSON JR. UP CLOSE
Student-athlete: Damon, who has a 2.5 GPA, says his favorite class is math.
Family: Damon lives with his grandmother, Barbara Rickman, and grandfather, Louis Rickman.
Iroquois coach Jeff Morrow says: He’s really talented. He’s had some growing pains, but he’s come a long way and I think he’s got a shot to play at the next level. He’s obviously got to get stronger. He’s got a thin frame on him. Like a lot of high school kids, when he wants to guard somebody he can and he’s very talented with the ball. He can score it.