WINNSBORO — The Fairfield Central basketball team has found itself in tough situations this year, and often they have turned to senior Akyel Richmond.
Akyel, or Cleet as they call him, spends much of his time on the court flying around with reckless abandon and hitting the floor from a strong drive or taking a hard charge.
If you have been to a Fairfield Central basketball game, you have no doubt seen Akyel “Cleet” Richmond hit the floor on seemingly every other trip down the court.
Whether he is driving for a basket and a foul or taking a hard charge from an opponent, Akyel has clearly embraced the role of fall guy.
Richmond has been a vocal leader for the Griffins, but it has been his play that speaks loudest. He stands at second in scoring for the team and leads the team in rebounds. With his physical brand of basketball, neither comes as a surprise.
Cleet hasn’t been playing basketball as long as some of his teammates, but his effort and work ethic off the court are evident.
“I started playing in ninth grade. My friends played, so I got involved,” he said.
It’s clear watching Richmond that he enjoys the game. Even more clear is how much he enjoys the camaraderie with his teammates. Those teammates look to him as a leader and inspiration.
Coach Devin Liferidge said Cleet is the heart and soul of his team.
“Cleet just kind of grew on me over the years,” Liferidge said. “He’s got a loving personality, he’s a great teammate. All of his teammates love him.”
Richmond said he tries to model his game after that of Washington Wizards star John Wall, another high energy player.
“Everybody said I play like him so I started taking notice of his game and trying to play like that,” he said.
When his team needs someone to step up or take a charge, Cleet says he has no problem being the fall guy.
“Everybody just says the same thing, that I stay falling. Even my principal Ms. Swilley. I’ve fallen for a long time, it doesn’t bother me,” he said.
That was never more evident than the Griffins’ game at Eau Claire. With three seconds on the clock, Akyel took a full court pass and three steps to the basket to get a buzzer beater in this season’s most exciting finish to date.
Cleet said that was probably his favorite moment of the season.
“I thought I was going to run out of time,” he said. “I was going to take the jumper, but the defense went to the outside so I went to the right.”
Richmond says he isn’t sure just yet what waits for him after graduation. He hopes to be able to continue playing in college, but is also prepared to go into his family’s business. “People have said college ball is for me, but my dad and my granddad own a company so that’s where I may be.”
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.