Ragin' Cajuns sign 6-foot-10 'monster rebounder' Richards

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

The UL basketball team has picked up a commitment from Isaiah Richards, a big-dunking, 6-foot-10 Class of 2020 center from Brooklyn, New York.

Tweeted Richards on Thursday: “I am honored and blessed to announce that I have committed to (the Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball) program.”

“I can’t wait to move down south!” Richards also tweeted.

He joins a Cajun club in need of size.

“I feel like I will fit in pretty well,” Richards said during a telephone interview with The Daily Advertiser on Friday, “because I’m exactly what they need.”

Richards thanked UL coach Bob Marlin and his staff “for believing in me,” and he thanked coach Nick Couluris of the Springfield Commonwealth Academy “for giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent.”

Brooklyn (N.Y.) South Shore High's Isaiah Richards, right, pressures Ballard High's Isaac Womack during a December 2018 game played in Kentucky.

SCA is a college prep academy located in Springfield, Massachusetts.

UL confirmed the signing Friday.

Couluris called Richards “super long,” a “rim protector” and a “monster rebounder” who had multiple 20-plus-boards games for his national prep team.

“Great kid,” the SCA coach said in a telephone interview Friday. “I think size and athleticism is huge for him.

“There are very few guys that can do what he can do at a legit 6-10 … and I think he can do really well.”

Richards led Brooklyn’s South Shore High School to back-to-back New York City Public School Athletic League Class AA championships.

He originally committed to Florida International in December 2018, while still at South Shore.

But Richards played last summer for TaylorMade Academy in Metairie, and instead of going to FIU he spent last season on the post-graduate prep level for SCA.

Richards averaged 12.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game for a 30-7 Springfield Commonwealth team that qualified for its national tournament.

He is the No. 5 recruit in Massachusetts and the No. 24 recruit in New England, according to New England Recruiting Report.

Couluris said Richards can impact the game “on both ends” of the floor.

“He’s a great screen-and-roll player right now,” the prep school coach said. “He’s got the 15-foot mid-range. He can go over both shoulders.

“I wouldn’t say we used it a lot for him, but he can stretch it outside and knock down an open 3 on a pick-and-pop play.”

Richards said he has added elements to his game since he started to play while in the 8th grade, but it all begins with happens on the boards and at the rim. He loves to block or alter shots. But there is no doubt about his highest priority.

“Rebounding still is No. 1,” he said.

Listed at 215 pounds by verbalcommits.com, Richards tweeted in February that he had received an offer from Virginia Commonwealth, last December that had been offered by Rhode Island, last October that he had offers from Grambling and UTEP and last July that had an offer from Nevada.

According to Nevada Sports Net, he took an official visit to Nevada last October.

Couluris said Richards also had an offer from Georgia and that Syracuse “got involved late.”

But Richards said he decided to commit when the offer from the Cajuns was a firm one on the table.

He announced his pledge to UL on Twitter shortly after 7-foot former Clemson big man Trey Jemison announced plans Thursday to transfer to Alabama-Birmingham.

UL was among at least a half dozen programs expressing interest in Jemison, as were fellow Sun Belt Conference members Troy and Georgia Southern.

 Richards becomes the fourth recruit to reveal plans to join the Cajuns since the 2019-20 season ended, joining former Mississippi State transfer guard Devin Butts, ex-University of Portland big man Theo Akwuba and Ranger (Texas) College transfer guard Brayan Au.

Butts, Akwuba and Au all already have signed.

UL also added Lake Charles-area high school guard Michael Thomas during the NCAA’s early signing period last fall.

Thomas and Au both are eligible to play right away, but the status of Akwuba and Butts for the 2020-21 remains uncertain until it’s decided whether they will have to sit out a season in accord with current NCAA transfer rules.

Richards’ presence would add depth to a UL roster that is losing leading scorer and rebounder Jalen Johnson to Mississippi State as a graduate transfer, and to a Cajun frontcourt that lost sophomore big man Kristian Lafayette to the NCAA transfer portal, and it would be much-needed especially if Akwuba isn’t immediately eligible.

“Isaiah is a big, strong athlete with a high motor. He has shown the ability to develop and improve his game over the past few years,” Marlin said in a statement. “We believe his ceiling is high and are excited he has decided to call Louisiana his home.”

It is one where Richards can make a difference, one of his former coaches believes.

“He probably has a chance to come in and play right away,” Couluris said.

“He was obviously recruited at a high-major level, high- and mid-major … so I think it’s a huge steal for Louisiana-Lafayette. I think he fits with what Coach Marlin does really well.”