Belmont freshman wing, Will Richard, has been majorly impactful out of the gate for the Bruins. Richard’s production and efficiency at such a young age have ascended him into analytical darling status and coincided with him gaining some traction as a deep NBA Draft sleeper prospect.
Rookie Scale founder, Jon Chepkevich, caught up with Richard as the first interviewee of our Rookie Scale Prospect Q&A Series, wherein Richard discussed being underrecruited, his relationship with Walker Kessler, his versatile skill set, and more.
For the first installment of the Rookie Scale Prospect Q&A series, we present Belmont freshman, Will Richard.
Rookie Scale: Based on the first half of your freshman season, you are clearly a high-major DI talent. Your offers in high school included Belmont, Drexel, Furman, among others – all of which are mid-majors. Schools such as Clemson, Northwestern, and Stanford showed interest but never offered. What were these high-majors missing?
Will Richard: To be honest, I don’t really know. I felt that, especially during my senior season, I showed all that I can do. I just knew that I had to control what I could control. All the mid-major schools seemed to reach out a lot more and show a lot more attention. So I decided that was the best route for me because they were paying more attention.
RS: You spoke specifically to your senior season. You averaged 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists as a junior… then that really jumped your senior season to 24.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. What would you say was the primary catalyst of your senior year breakout?
WR: Just all the work I put in that summer going into my senior year. Playing with guys like Walker Kessler (Auburn) and Emory Lanier (Davidson), we had a loaded team… so I knew with them leaving I was gonna have to step my game up in order to keep us on the winning track.
RS: Did you grow at all between seasons? Did you get any taller/stronger, or was it really just working on your game and your skills?
WR: Oh yeah, I definitely started taking weight training a lot more seriously. I grew an inch or so during that time and put a lot more weight on me.
RS: You mentioned filling the shoes of some guys that left the program a year prior. You won the Georgia 4A State Championship in 2020 as a junior alongside fellow NBA Draft prospect, Walker Kessler. Can you tell me about that relationship both as high school teammates on the court and as distanced fellow NCAA standouts today?
WR: Walker is like a brother to me. It was a fun time playing with him. He’s a great guy on and off the court. We still talk and catch up and stuff. He’s definitely a guy I know I can always talk to if I need something.
RS: Is there any specific advice that you would give to underrecruited prospects with lofty basketball aspirations?
WR: I would just say control what you can control. Go out there and play your game and everything will fall into place. That’s what I did. Just control what you can control, keep working, keep your head down, and stay away from all the noise and social media and stuff like that. Don’t let that take away from your work and what you put into the game.
RS: Belmont looks like it was ultimately an excellent choice and a seamless fit. What drew you to commit to Belmont and what about the program has enabled you to hit the ground running as a true freshman?
WR: I would say the relationship that we built early on in the process. They had been recruiting me since late freshman to early sophomore year, so we had been building a relationship for a long time. I knew that if I came here, the coaches had enough trust in me to put me on the floor as a freshman and let me do what I know I can do. The trust that they had in me and the relationship that we built in the process – it really helped a lot. It was different with COVID, so talking with me and FaceTiming with me through all of that helped a lot and showed me that they were really interested and wanted me here.
RS: Let’s dig into your game now. For those who haven’t yet had the chance to dig into your tape, how would you describe your game and style of play?
WR: I’m an all-around player. I can shoot it. I can score. I really take pride on the defensive end – getting in gaps, getting steals. Rebounding is something I take pride in, as well. I feel like I can do a lot of different things on the court.
RS: Absolutely. That stuff all shows up in your statistical profile. When you feed your stats into NBA Draft models, everything jumps off the page and puts you right up there with some of the more high profile one-and-done prospects. The most apt comparison I came to when crunching the numbers is freshman year Gordon Hayward at Butler. Do you have any thoughts on that and is there anyone else you compare your game to in the NBA or that you model your game after?
WR: I definitely like watching Gordon Hayward a lot. I also like watching Mikal Bridges with the Suns… how he uses his length on defense, and he can really shoot it and score it as well.
RS: That’s a good person to mold your game after. Speaking of Mikal Bridges, part of what makes him so lethal is having such a crazy wingspan in addition to his skill as a shooter and defender. Do you know what your wingspan is?
WR: Last I checked it was like 6’10 ½”.
RS: What areas do you think you could stand to improve as a player?
WR: Creating offense for myself – being able to break down defenders and get my teammates good looks. I would also say being more engaged on defense in seeing plays happen before they happen… just reading gaps better and stuff like that. Those are things I think I can work on.
RS: Your shot chart is the template of quintessential modern shot selection – almost entirely comprised of looks at the rim or behind the three point stripe. Is this something that you’re cognizant of? Is it driven by your own preferences and instincts, team scheme, or a combination of both? What drives that?
WR: I would say it’s mostly taking what the defense gives me. A lot of what we (Belmont) do is shooting threes, so that comes along with it.
RS: To what extent does game film study play into your personal growth and development as a player?
WR: It definitely plays a lot into my growth. I watch film with our assistants almost every week. Just seeing different ways I can attack defenses, ways I can be better in rotations on defense, and looking at everything that can help prepare me for the next level.
RS: Looking forward now that you’re into conference play, what are your team and individual goals for the rest of the season?
WR: Team-level the goal is to go undefeated in-conference and win both the regular season and the (OVC) conference tournament. And then I’d say we definitely want to make a run in the (NCAA) tournament. Individual – of course, make All-Conference… Freshman of the Year, First or Second Team (All-OVC), any of that… and just keep producing numbers to help my team win.
RS: Moving off the court… what are your hobbies and interests outside of basketball?
WR: I’m really a homebody. I watch a lot of Netflix, like playing video games, just hanging with friends and spending time with family. That’s really about it with me. I’m not too much of a person to go out or anything like that.
RS: That’s pretty conducive to this COVID world that we’re in right now, so I’m sure you’re doing just fine.
WR: (Laughs) Oh yeah, I’m perfectly fine.
RS: You are a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Can you tell about what your faith means to you and how that intersects with basketball.
WR: It definitely means a lot. Growing up in a Christian home, my parents always stressed that everything that I got is from God. So just keeping Him first and knowing that all my gifts come from Him… I have to give Him all the glory throughout everything that’s coming to me because I know it’s all from Him. Being able to come from FCA in high school to having FCA here, too, at Belmont has helped a lot.
RS: Name three words that best describe you.
WR: I would definitely say I’m funny. I’m different, meaning I’m perfectly fine doing my own thing, I don’t like to follow the crowd or anything. And I would say I’m very humble – I don’t like being prideful or anything like that.
RS: Those are great, you sound like a good dude to me.
WR: (Laughs) Yes, sir.
RS: Describe to me your “why”. What drives you to be the best player you can be?
WR: I would say my parents and family have a big influence on that. The way they believe in me and how they push me to reach all of my goals is a huge driving factor for me to keep going and striving for all that I plan to do with this basketball stuff.
RS: Why should NBA scouts be interested in you as a potential draft selection, whether that be this year or sometime down the line? Whenever that time comes, why should a team bring you into their organization?
WR: I’m a guy that can guard multiple positions. I’m able to shoot it very well. I think I bring a lot to the team and whatever my role is, I feel that I can adapt my game to play that role in order to help the team win. I bring a lot to the table when it comes to rebounding, guarding, scoring… whatever they need me to do, I feel like I can do it.
RS: Best of luck the rest of the season – appreciate the time, Will.
WR: Appreciate it, man! Have a good one.