Check out these two players:
Player A: 10.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 52.1 FG%, 29% 3FG, 1.0 STL
Player B: 12.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 46.8% FG, 32% 3FG, 1.6 STL
There’s a good chance you know A–he’s a Senior for the Elite-8 Arkansas Razorbacks, Au’Diese Toney—a stellar combo guard and perimeter defender in the SEC.
It’s doubtful you know Player B—an Ohio Valley Belmont star, and new transfer to the Florida Gators, Will Richard.
Now I’m aware that stats between the SEC and the Ohio Valley Conference are quite different, but it’s a good indicator of the talent level that Richard brings to the table, and apparently new Florida coach, Todd Golden sees it too.
Maybe it was the 73 points he dropped in his final five games, maybe the 22 points, 8 boards, 3 blocks and zero TOs he had against Vanderbilt, maybe it’s the fact that he’s a physical 6’5 defensive terror with a Rajon Rondo wingspan whose stats don’t do him justice, but either way there’s a reason the Freshman earned interest from top programs like Arkansas, Tennessee, Clemson, Ohio State, and Penn State.
“You can just tell [Golden] wants to take Florida back to the Nation Championship and that’s something I couldn’t pass up being a part of.”-Will Richard on Swamp247
But Florida was the winner, and they’ll undoubtedly benefit from Richard flying under the radar in the much smaller Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). The emergence of the “Golden era” will be a storyline worth watching in Gainesville as their new coach, touted for his young analytic style, has a nationally ranked roster of transfers with Richard as the number one target. “Will Richard, he’s just a really talented kid both on and off the court,” Golden said to the Guide to Greater Gainesvilee, “I would call him a really talented wing player with great length, a really good shooter, great athlete, and can really score the basketball.”
While he’s certainly garnered high praise from Golden, Richard, similar to many mid-major athletes, began his high school career underrated and under-recruited—only receiving interest from three high-major teams—Clemson, Northwestern and Stanford. However, he quickly gained notoriety during his senior year at Woodward Academy where head coach Anthony Thomas helped develop Richard into one of the most improved an accomplished players in the state of Georgia as a Senior. When Richard’s high school career came to an end, he was selected to the Georgia High School Association First Team All-State, became a McDonald’s All-American nominee, and was a part of the Georgia All-Tournament Team after winning the 4A Georgia State Championship. He posted over 1,000 career points after averaging 24 points a game, 8.8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals his Senior year, ultimately earning a 3-star label for rivals.com and 247sports. However, despite the accolades, Richard heard from only a handful of smaller schools beyond the three high-majors before deciding that Belmont was the best fit.
His decision has since vaulted him into the Power-5 player discussion. As a freshman, Richard crushed it—being named to the Ohio Valley Newcomer Team on the back of a stat line featuring 12 points and 6 rebounds a game. He ultimately helped the Bruins to a 25-8 record and NIT bid where he truly showcased his skill set with a 22 point shredding of now conference foe Vanderbilt. He posted a personal-best 23 points at Samford while also scoring double digits in 23/33 games—15+ points in 12 of them. He was a key piece to the Bruins roster that ranked second in the OVC, and with such a breakout year he’s earned the opportunity to play at the highest level of division-1 in a power basketball conference.
Richard fits in well with the new Florida scheme—he’s a spot up shooter that can attack the rim, crash boards, and most importantly defend the dangerous guards in the conference. When Belmont faced their two SEC opponents LSU and Vanderbilt, Richard posted stellar numbers–38 points, 13 boards, 3 assists and 4 blocks with only 1 turnover combined, so he’s clearly ready for the leap and he should make waves quickly as a Gator guard.
Richard shared with AllGators what Golden had planned for him, “He told me he wants me playing the wing, he wants me to be able to get out in transition and put me in catch and shoot situations coming off ball screens and stuff like that. Also, just being an elite defender and an all-around player that will help them get wins.” and in another interview with the Swamp247, Richard explained “You can just tell [Golden] wants to take Florida back to the Nation Championship and that’s something I couldn’t pass up being a part of.”
The beauty of the Florida roster that Golden has created is that it will allow Richard to focus on what he does best—lock down ball handlers on defense, slash/cut to the basket, or spot up shoot. Since he isn’t the primary scorer on the team, he’ll thrive as a wing that creates separation while opponents gameplan for the likes of Lofton or double down on Fudge or Castleton. Richard is a perfect combo guard wingman—and he’ll likely serve as a spark off the bench or a defensive injection when the Gators need to shut down perimeter ball handlers.
Richard’s has done nothing but improve since he began his career in high school. Each season he has progressed, slowly gaining more and more attention, scoring more points, ruining opponents’ nights. The chip he carries for being overlooked has sparked a work ethic that’s vaulted him into elite company—and his faith and dedication are finally being given the recognition it deserves. Gator nation just gained a diamond in the rough.