Lee’s Summit North senior Devon Richardson is a state record holder and state champion in the high jump and a member of the Broncos’ 2017 Class 5 state championship track and field team.
But ask any member of the student-led cheering section, the Crimson Crazies, about the likeable center who returned to the basketball court this season after taking his junior year off, and they will simply say, “The rebound!”
That rebound came in overtime to help the Broncos slip past William Chrisman 63-58 in a Class 5 state quarterfinal last Saturday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
While area scoring leader Javaunte Hawkins and his backcourt mate and best friend Mikel Henderson get much of the attention when it comes to the Broncos, Richardson has proved to be an X-Factor for the 26-3 team that meets 23-3 Columbia Rock Bridge at 5:15 p.m. Friday at Missouri State University’s John Q. Hammons Arena in the state semifinals.
He proved it in the final minutes of overtime against Chrisman as he grabbed an offensive board and put back a layup to give the Broncos a 58-57 lead.
It was the biggest rebound of his life.
“I was thinking that we’ve got to get a bucket no matter what,” Richardson said. “I knew they were in foul trouble, so I knew we could get the bucket or the foul. I knew I was going to get one of those.
“Grabbing that rebound felt so good.”
Late in the game, fellow senior Tommy Erwin grabbed a rebound, got the ball to Richardson, and he was fouled.
Richardson hit one of two free throws and a few seconds later, Bears forward Alexander Calhoun was called for an offensive foul after he stumbled into Richardson as the Broncos senior fell to the floor. While on his back, Richardson began clapping and celebrating.
Hawkins hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to cap a 24-point night and seal the Broncos’ first state final four berth since 2011.
“He plays harder than anyone I’ve ever played with,” Hawkins said of Richardson. “He and Tommy played great minutes, and we’re going to the final four because of it.”
Richardson now has the chance to earn state championship rings in two sports.
“That would be unbelievable,” said Richardson, who has averaged 4.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per game this season. “You dream of one state championship and now, I have the chance to be a part of two – and in two sports. Pretty cool.”
When asked to recount the final moments of the win over William Chrisman, a smile appeared on Richardson’s face.
“I don’t know if I was ever happier than I was in the final minutes of that game,” said Richardson, who set a Class 5 state high jump record with a 6-feet, 9-inch effort last year. “That was when I knew we were going to state and that I played a role in our win.
“Winning state in track was amazing, but I felt like all season long we had a real good chance of winning the state track meet. I knew we’d be good in basketball, but after not playing last year, I didn’t know how much I would contribute or how good we’d be. Now, we’re going to the final four, that about says it all.”
While North coach Mike Hilbert appreciates the game by game brilliance of Hawkins and Henderson, he is quick to point out that the Broncos are not state bound without the effort every player gives each night on the court.
“We were so excited when we found out Devon was going to play this year,” Hilbert said. “That rebound in overtime was huge! Then he hits those free throws – you know, the things that can go unnoticed – but a coach and his teammates notice them.
“And the best thing about it is, he didn’t come back to basketball to get any attention. He gets enough attention in track. He came back to be with his friends, and I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that has been as close or had as much fun as this group.”
Richardson said he has played with – or against – most of the players on the Broncos’ undefeated Suburban Big Six Conference squad.
“I’ve played with most of these guys since we were just knee high to where we are now,” Richardson said. “And it just warms my heart that we have had this much success and this much fun.
“Best decision I ever made was coming back this year to be a part of this team.”