Feb. 24, 2009
By Eric S. Bartelt
Cleveland Richard's line against Harvard on Nov. 29 says it all. He led the team with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals to become the first Army player to post team highs in all four categories in 13 seasons. He, as his head coach will tell you, is a jack-of-all-trades and while not spectacular at any one particular thing, he does all things well.
"Cleveland does a lot of things for us ... he scores, rebounds, passes, dribbles, plays inside defense a little bit and he's a flexible player in terms of scoring inside and outside," said head coach Jim Crews. "He's been one of our more consistent players this year."
The 6-foot-3-inch Houston native has been steady and so consistent that he leads the team in scoring at 10.2 points per game, is second in rebounding at 3.3 boards per game, ranks first with 24 steals and is second with 42 assists.
Richard's playing time has increased by 10 minutes each year since the 13 minutes a game he played as a plebe, and he is now the only Army regular to average more than 30 minutes a game.
In spite of this season's success, he still sees a lot of work ahead to become the player he wants to be.
"I just try to do too much or think about things too much and, at times, don't get the results I want," Richard said. "My defense is decent, but there's always room for improvement as far as being on the ball, moving my feet, keeping my hands up and boxing out for rebounds.
"As far as offense, I need to work on consistently knocking down shots and creating for my teammates," he added. "My biggest problem has been not being set when I'm ready to shoot."
Ultimately, for the team to grow and become more successful, they will have to continue to share the points load because of a lack of dominant scorer or someone to look to in the clutch moments of the game like they did with Jarrell Brown and Matt Bell the two previous seasons.
"We don't have anyone who can score like those two guys (Brown and Bell), but we've got more guys who can chip in," Crews said. "However, when it gets down to the nitty, gritty, a lot of times that's when you start looking for that guy who can hit the basket and he's not there right now. That's gotten us into trouble.
"Right now, we have a hurdle to jump when we get to the final moments of a game and we need to trust in our offense," he added. "We could trust Jarrell Brown (who graduated in 2008), so we would look to pass to him, get a screen to get him open and we had a tunnel vision on that, but we don't have that now and we must get over that and trust the system because it could be this guy this time and that guy next time. ... They just have to play off of each others' talents and in the long term it'll be better for us once we jump that hurdle."
In addition to Richard, classmates Josh Miller and Marcus Nelson have grown into valuable contributors in the two-plus years they've been at West Point.
"Josh, Marcus and I have played together since we've been here and we take pride in keeping the ball in front of us and closing in on shooters to try to help the low-post and rebounding on the boards," Richard said. "I play inside sometimes as well, so I understand both aspects, so the big guys try to help the guards as far a cutting people off in the corner, but everybody relies on everybody for a total team effort."
Richard has two more chances to create special postseason moments in his career, like last season's defeat of Lehigh in the Patriot League quarterfinals last year when he dove on the floor for a loose ball in overtime to help clinch the team's victory.
"My freshman year, when we won in the first round, it was said it hadn't been done in 10 years and then we did it again last year and it felt just as good," Richard said. "The overall goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament ... and I see those (first round victories) as a step in the growing process, but we just have to win the next one. We've done it twice, but we're looking for more."