Jereme Richmond committed to playing basketball at Illinois when he was an eighth-grader. As he chased the hype surrounding him the next five-plus years, he stumbled far more often than he soared.
He switched high schools, argued with coaches and brawled with teammates. After arriving in Champaign, he rarely demonstrated what all the fuss was about in the first place.
And now he's gone after one unimpressive college season -- a season that ended in his suspension. What a waste.
We tell our outstanding, young athletes so often how great they are that they can't help but believe they are bigger than any team or institution. We coddle them and let them break rules and then wonder why they aren't team players.
Meanwhile, the system uses them, garnering significant gains in money and status at their expense.
Sure, some of these kids come out OK despite it all. But far too many end up like Jereme Richmond.
He is declaring for the NBA draft. There might not even be an NBA season next year. And even if there is, it's very possible Richmond either will be drafted in the second round or not at all, meaning no guaranteed contract.
His game isn't NBA ready. Neither is his skinny frame. His maturity level? He might as well still be in eighth grade.
His parting shot was made via -- you guessed it -- Twitter:
"Thanks to my haters and motivators. If I so happen to fail, I want my doubters to know that my failure is greater than your biggest success."
Whatever that means.
And so, Bruce Weber's one stud recruit ended up harming, not helping, the Illinois program. The buzzards are circling Weber more than ever, and it's hard to blame them. Since guiding Bill Self's players to the '05 NCAA title game, he has done little to show he has what it takes to be a major-college coach.
Weber did Richmond no favors by offering a scholarship to a kid barely in his teens -- a kid who, by all accounts, already had serious ego issues. Then again, if Weber hadn't, other coaches would have.
It's the system. It feeds on itself. And along the way, it eats unprepared youngsters for breakfast.