The one thing you have to know about Malachi Richardson is that he hates losing. He doesn’t accept it. It’s that competitiveness that drives him.
“If I’m down, you can’t count me out because I’m always gonna do whatever I have to do to get back in the game or just try to will us to a win,” Richardson says. “I think that’s something that I’ve definitely shown.
“Growing up, mom and dad always beat me in basketball, sister beat me in video games, my brother beat me in video games. I had to learn how to win. I had to do whatever I had to do.”
The 6-6, 20-year-old showed off his trademark intensity earlier this year when he put Syracuse on his back during the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. Against West Virginia, a number-one overall seed, Richardson made a joke out of their predator-style defense. The freshman scored 21 of his 23 points in a pressure-packed second half, damn near erasing a 16-point deficit by himself.
Richardson shakes his head when he thinks back to that game in March. He smiles.
“Keep putting it up, do what you gotta do, we gon ride you ’til we can’t ride you no more.” That’s what Boeheim and the bench were telling him.
The New Jersey product says that he’s been told his crazy Tournament showing, and his overall season (averages of 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists), will land him somewhere in the middle of the first round, or into the 20s.
He’s the latest in a line of Jersey kids that are taking over the League.
He shakes his head again and lets his words trail, an unconscious sign of how much the forthcoming words mean to him. “Jersey, man… we just… Jersey pride.”
He grew up watching Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He played against Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyle Anderson and Wade Baldwin. They’re all very aware of what it means to be from the Garden State.
The combination of watching and playing against those guys has created a lethal offensive weapon. Richardson can catch-and-shoot, create off the dribble, get to the tin and finish over the top. The kid gets buckets. At only 20, he’s polished enough on O to contribute to a team right away.
He says he’s worked out for ten teams, but not the Sixers, who were rumored to be a potential landing spot for him. He would love to play for that Sixers team. His favorite football team is the Eagles. The first NBA jersey he owned was Allen Iverson’s number 3. But Richardson is just looking to play.
“Hopefully someone picks me in a good spot,” Richardson says. “Put me in the best position possible. I’m gonna show what I can do.”
When Boeheim saw Richardson play during the summer of his sophomore year of high school, he offered him a scholarship to Syracuse, which was a dream come true for the kid from Trenton. He watched Cuse growing up, and dedicated himself to one day end up with the Orange.
He pauses one more time, but then quickly gets animated. “Cuse runs New York,” Richardson says. “Ain’t no other way to put it. We always gonna run New York and it’s gonna be Orange forever.”
There’s one more thing you need to know about Malachi Richardson. He’s not here for sneaker deals or TV time. He’s here because it’s his passion.
“I don’t play it for money, I don’t play it for the fame,” Richardson says. “I do it because I love it.”