‘Big Sleepy’ making noise in Rocky Top
By Ryan Howard | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — Every time Josh Richardson scores a point in the Pilot Rocky Top League, the PA announcer calls him by the nickname “Big Sleepy.” The announcer says it’s because UT fans went to sleep on Richardson, an overlooked recruit out of Edmond, Okla, before he played a crucial role for the Vols stretch run to runner-up in the SEC East.
Richardson scored 32 points Monday in his R. Larry Smith Insurance team’s 124-121 overtime loss to DeRoyal Industries — the first game the team had dropped in league play. The rising sophomore is seventh in the league in scoring through three games with 24.3 ppg.
“I thought I did well until I did pretty poor in the fourth and overtime,” Richardson told The Daily Times. “I could have done a little better, so I’ll pick that up next game.”
Richardson hit a 3-pointer and two free throws in the final minute of regulation, but he missed a game-winning 3-point shot in the final seconds of overtime, which allowed DeRoyal to clinch the game with free throws and force a four-way tie atop the standings at 2-1 by knocking off the only remaining unbeaten in the R. Larry squad.
“I missed the game-winner today, but I’ll shoot it again next time,” Richardson said. “I’ll bet you that.”
The sophomore will have a full plate of basketball games this summer. In addition to playing in the Rocky Top League, he recently finished a tour of Germany and Poland with Athletes in Action.
Richardson’s team went 6-0 in Europe, which introduced him to a different style of basketball. Richardson said the trip helped him to grow as a person and as a basketball player.
“It helped me to mature a lot,” Richardson said. “I matured as a Christian, and it made me to appreciate the little things that we have here. But Europe is not really that different from America.”
UT teammate Skylar McBee is also on R. Larry Smith Insurance, along with former UT players Ron Slay, Bobby Maze and Jon Higgins.
“I love playing with Skylar,” Richardson said. “You throw it to the 3-point line, and it’s automatic — almost.”
With 16 minutes per game last season, Richardson played a vital role for the Vols mostly coming off the bench in his freshman year, and he made significant contributions on defense.
The 6-foot-6, 186-pound combo-guard played in 34 games with nine starts. He averaged 2.9 points per game and 1.4 rebounds per a game, and he recorded 19 blocks and 18 steals.
Richardson said all of his hard work over the summer will help him fill any role the Vols need him to next year.
“Mainly, I plan on being just a utility guy,” Richardson said. “If we need someone to fill a role, I want to be the person to step up and do it.”
Richardson also said he has been focusing on his shooting and ball-handling skills in preparation for the fall after posting a 35.3 shooting percentage in his collegiate debut season and giving up 32 turnovers.