NBA Prospect Ryan Richards Prefers D-League Over Europe
England's Ryan Richards was probably the least-known player at last week's Draft Combine combine after earning a surprise invite as the only European prospect at the NBA's official first look at NBA Draft prospects.
Things have changed quite quickly, however, as Richards went from "nearly unknown" to "severely underrated" in just under three hours of shooting baskets in a gym full of NBA decision makers.
The 19-year-old lefty hailing from London drew quite a bit of buzz after he, as ESPN's NBA Draft expert Chad Ford describes, "shot the ball well, was very fluid running up and down the court and showed a sound basketball IQ" in Chicago.
That was about the only time the majority of the high-level NBA executives in the gym had ever seen Richards play, after he played sparingly in Europe over the past few years. Most recently, Richards played this past season in Switzerland with BBC Monthey on loan from Spain's Gran Canaria.
Richards played six games for the lower-level European team before dislocating his shoulder in February, prematurely ending his season. He averaged just over 20 minutes of action, scoring 13.3 points and grabbing 5.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field and a beyond-impressive 91.3 percent (21-of-23) from the free-throw line.
That is about the extent of basketball knowledge I'm qualified to offer regarding Richards' game (though I have been brushing up on the YouTube highlights seen here and -- despite some of the worst camera work ever -- here), but it's enough to catch readers up with the majority of the NBA world regardless.
The most interesting thing about Richards, however, was his outlook on what might happen once he enters the NBA during an interview with DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony in Chicago last week.
"I've made it pretty clear that if I do get drafted, I want to stay with the team whether I play up-and-down in the D-League or with the team," Richards told DraftExpress. "I definitely don't want to go back to Europe."
With a fair amount of domestic players looking to head to Europe to make money in lieu of the opportunity the D-League offers, it's encouraging that a European prospect realizes that the NBA's Development League could prepare him to play in the NBA better than another season in Europe would.
"If they want to pick me and send me back to Europe," Richards continued, "I'd rather withdraw my name then come back next year."
In the end, it seems Richards has a goal and wants to succeed, regardless of any (unwarranted) stigma being assigned to the D-League might bring along.
"It's my goal in life -- it's my dream. I've always wanted to play in the NBA and I've been waiting for awhile even though I'm pretty young," Richards said. "I've kind of been on the scene for awhile so I'm ready to make the jump. I think I am ready."
Ford speculated that a team with multiple first-round picks (the Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Thunder and Nets among them) might take a shot on him late in the first round.
The Houston Rockets may also have interest in him if they decide to trade back into the second round because Chris Finch, head coach of the Rockets' D-League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers, should be familiar with Richard from their time spent in England.
Since Richards is a European prospect, he has until June 14th to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft, but speculated he'd know by June 1st. The NBA Draft will take place on June 24th in New York City.