Jack Of All Trades Will Richard Set To Help Florida In A Number Of Ways

Florida’s first day of official practice brought a near scare when it was announced that wing Will Richard would be missing two to three weeks with an injury.

Fortunately, it’s not something that’s expected to nag him much moving forward and is only a minor inconvenience for him as he’s unable to compete in what should be some valuable early season practices for a team with a lot of new pieces looking to come.

Richard was the first player to commit to the Todd Golden regime after a productive freshman season at Belmont. Listed at 6’5″ at Belmont (though mentioned as more like 6’4″ from people around the Florida program) Richard was a big piece of a quality Belmont team that finished last season 79th in the NET Rankings, an excellent finish for a team that actually had some at-large consideration in the back half of the season before the poor metrics of the Ohio Valley Conference dragged them down.

In a lot of ways, Richard is a very different study than transfers the Gators have had over the last several years. Usually, a player transferring to Florida from the mid-major ranks means they have had several years of college basketball experience that culminated in a big season that led them to jump to the high major level. However, that’s not the case for Richard who played only one year at Belmont before drawing high major interest for averaging 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. That means that when talking about Richard there is still plenty of projection to be done, as opposed to graduate transfers or older transfers where you kind of know what you’re getting before they step on campus.

It’s possible that Richard even ending up at Belmont was a bit of an anomaly. Due to COVID, it was difficult for coaches to get to high school games in 2020–the biggest recruiting year for then high school student Richard. Could he have been a high major player right out of high school? Given how productive he was as a freshman–probably yes. Ultimately things worked out for him, however, as he was able to get a huge minute load and role right away at Belmont and then had his pick of just about any school in the country.

If there is something that jumps out about Richard’s game it’s that he’s a bit of a jack of all trades who had the versatility to contribute in a number of areas. He scored the ball a little bit, he was a plus passer, his rebounding numbers for his size were excellent, and he also blocked shots and came up with steals at an above-average rate–all things that will look positive in any analytical projection . Exactly how that fits in at the high major level–time will tell.

An area he’ll contribute positively in right away is the rebounding column which will be a breath of fresh air to a Florida program that has gotten hammered on the defensive glass for the last five seasons. Despite not being a massive frame, Richard has the desire to box out and a nose for the ball that seems to always put him in the right place. His defensive rebounding percentage last season was 18.4%, above average for even a much larger player and a number that would have been second on the Gators and well, well above who would have come next (Anthony Duruji at 12.7%). Since coming to Florida Todd Golden has acknowledged how poor the rebounding has been and how it needs to get better and Richard, who will likely play most of his minutes at the three, will bring very positive rebounding production from that position.

Another area where Richard will provide some needed help is on the defensive end where his length and agility will allow him to guard a number of positions. He’ll likely be a two or three at Florida (likely more three, just with how the roster breaks down) but he has enough speed to handle point guards when needed and if he gets caught on a switch he has the strength to compete and hold on to much bigger players until a help defender can show up.

Unofficially listed with a 6’11” wingspan at Belmont Richard is a menace away from the ball defensively whether as a weak side shot blocker or darting into passing lanes for steals and deflections. Richard was 307th in the country in block rate, a tremendous impact for someone at 6’4”, and 438th in the country in steal rate. While some production has historically not transferred well from the mid-major to high-major ranks, steals and rebounding are skills that have transferred well and the fact Richard has been quality in both of those speaks positively of what he could do at Florida.

Offensively, Richard is someone who has been more of a play finisher than an offensive initiator. He actually played most of his minutes at the four for an undersized Belmont team and his role was to set screens, pop out to space for catch and shoot jumpers, and then crash the offensive glass for second chance opportunities.

Shooting is an area where he could use some improvement after hitting 32% of his threes and being relatively streaky. He was actually only a 24% three-point shooter in conference play, but a couple of hot shooting games early in the game allowed his overall percentage to remain respectable. For a player who didn’t have the ball in his hands a ton he’ll need to improve his catch and shoot ability to be a valuable piece of Florida’s offense. He was a quality free throw shooter, 80%, which speaks to his touch and fundamentals which could be an indicator that his three-point shot is about to catch up. Of course, Richard is young, and shooting is a skill that most freshmen struggle with and get better at with time and an improved shooting year could be expected.

Overall there is a ton to be excited about with Richard. It’s hard to step into any level of college basketball and be productive right away and the way he was able to do that for a good Belmont team speaks to his talent and basketball intelligence. Plus, it wasn’t just that he was effective in a single area, he was able to touch multiple areas of the game and make an impact. Defensively Richard is going to be well suited to contribute right away with his length, positional strength, and motor, something that’s also going to allow him to help out on the defensive glass especially when he’s playing the wing. Offensively he will need to carve out a role as he isn’t someone who is great with the ball in his hands yet, and he also hasn’t been a positive shooter. Even though he hasn’t demonstrated those offensive skills yet he was able to score 12 points a game off cuts, offensive rebounds, and finding opportunistic times to attack and that savvy could help him as he transitions to the high-major level. This is definitely a player to be excited about as someone who can contribute right away and also someone who doesn’t seem like he’s close to reaching his ceiling yet.

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