The road to the NBA does not frequently run through Burton Coliseum.
Patrick Richard hasn’t let that stop him from picking up his proverbial knapsack and hitting the highway towards that dream.
The McNeese State graduate is spending the majority of his summer in California working towards his ultimate career goal of making it at basketball’s highest level.
Richard’s quest to join the best has put him in the gym with some of the top players this year’s draft has to offer. Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, considered by many to be the potential No. 2 choice in the upcoming NBA Draft, is one of Richard’s regular workout partners, as is Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine.
The Carencro native rarely had the opportunity to see where he stacked up against such talent playing four years in the Southland Conference, but his summer workouts have given him the sense that he belongs.
“I knew what I was capable of doing. I could have played at any level of college basketball,” Richard said. “I played at a smaller school, but it really doesn’t mean anything these days.
“Being around guys who have guaranteed spots, it’s extra motivation to me. We’re all on the same page as far as pushing to get better. Basketball is that universal language. Those guys don’t look at me any different because I played at a smaller school. They see you can play the game, and that carries down.”
Richard is trying to become the first NBA player from McNeese since Tierre Brown, who played for four different teams from 2001-05. He’s also attempting to become the first Southland player in the league since recently retired Jeff Foster, who lasted 13 years with the Indiana Pacers coming out of Southwest Texas State.
The dearth of players with a similar pedigree to Richard’s did not stop the Rival Sports Group — which represents Robinson and Jardine along with current NBA players like Brandon Bass and Drue Holiday — from taking interest.
“What drove us to Patrick was his talent, drive, focus and humility,” said Rival Sports media relations director Ariela Weston. “They resonated with us.”
Richard’s first workout with a team came this Monday with the Golden State Warriors. Once again, he found himself surrounded by big names from big schools — Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Baylor’s Perry Jones III, Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli and North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller.
“I wasn’t really that worried about who was going to be there. I was not nervous, but anxious,” Richard said. “It maybe made me come out a little jittery. But it wasn’t about the guys that were there.”
At 6-foot-4, Richard doesn’t have the height to play his collegiate position, small forward, in the NBA. Thus he is taking up point guard on a very fast learning curve.
“I haven’t played (point guard) really, so I need to work on some things still. In college it was screens, catch-and-shoot. NBA basketball is pick-and-roll basketball.
“I’m working on my weaknesses. Ball-handling, working in the pick-and-roll. It’s a process and I just want to perfect my craft.”
Richard said he received helpful feedback from the Warriors.
“They say I shoot the ball exceptionally well. Even from my senior season it’s improved,” Richard said. “I just need to be more aggressive on the pick-and-roll.”
Richard’s next scheduled workout is on June 22 with the Detroit Pistons, where fellow McNeese alum Joe Dumars serves as team president. He will also go to Milwaukee to work out with the Bucks on June 24.
Richard said he has also spoken with representatives from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers, but nothing has been scheduled with those teams yet.
This year’s draft is on June 28.