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By ALEX PODLOGAR

I could call Akeem Richmond tonight if I wanted to.

If I wanted a comment about what this season has meant to him, what all those 3-pointers, and the school records and being named First Team All-Conference as a senior star at East Carolina truly meant to him, I could get it. It wouldn’t take much effort.

But I don’t need to make that call. I know all the answers.

I know them because Akeem Richmond is today who he was even when I covered him as an 8th-grader all those years ago. He’s still soft-spoken, still polite, still genial – and still humble.

He’s still the person his parents raised. Just older.

Well, just older and strong as an ox. Just older and more well-known. Just older and…more accomplished.

Way more accomplished.

We could dig into the records, the tournament-winning buzzer-beaters, where Richmond ranks in the nation in 3-pointers made, all the places his name appears among the thousands of college basketball players in the country today, not to mention in East Carolina and Conference USA basketball history.

I could ask about all of that, but I’d get the same humble answer. Akeem would praise God, say over and over again how he’s blessed, and in the next breath wonder how all this could have happened to him.

I could press him on that point. How did all this happen? Where did all this come from?

But I know that answer, too.

It’s in Akeem Richmond’s jump shot.

Look, it works. Ball don’t lie.

But it ain’t exactly pretty.

Akeem Richmond doesn’t have perfect form. The jumper is not Pistol Pete. It’s not Stephen Curry or J.J. Redick. Heck, the kid they call “Biscuits” in Chapel Hill might have a purer-looking jumper.

But that’s the point.

Akeem Richmond has always had some ability to play basketball. But he hasn’t always had size. He hasn’t always had strength. And even in south central North Carolina, he didn’t always have great competition.

But he always had Eric Richmond.

And because of Eric, the son always had will. The son always had belief. The son always had a man who had been there before, a man who knew how to get there, a man who knew the blessings would come from work.

Hard work.

Just because it ain’t pretty doesn’t mean it ain’t refined. There’s more sweat equity spent in Akeem Richmond’s jump shot than anything put forth by any basketball or football player who’s come through Sanford since.

And so the numbers and the accolades have come for Akeem Richmond. What’s next for him is anyone’s guess.

I guess I could ask, but there’s really no reason.

I know that answer, too.

Akeem Richmond will be just fine.

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