Michael Richards would routinely walk through the door of his apartment late at night after a long day’s work at the Metropolitan Opera, and his teenage son, Shane Richards, would not be home.
It would be 10 o’clock, sometimes later. Michael would never worry.
“I always knew where Shane was: in the gym at the 92nd Street Y,” Michael says. “That’s where Shane would be. If you wanted him, that’s where he would be.”
Even on nights his York Prep basketball team had played a game, Shane would go to the Y. He would shoot hundreds of free throws if he had a poor night at the line. He would launch hundreds of jumpers if he felt his shot hadn’t been up to par.
Only at closing time would he leave and walk around the corner to his family’s home on Manhattan’s upper east side.
“I would say, ‘Shane, where the heck have you been? It’s like 10 o’clock at night,’” Michael remembers. “He would say, ‘Well, I screwed up today.’”
Shane has always had an obsessive nature, according to his father, who recalls his young son spending hours shouting at the family’s Playstation console and buying strategy guides to aid his quest to beat Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.
Shane was also stubborn.
“He was such a pain,” Michael says, laughing as memories flood into his head. “He didn’t listen to anybody. He was one of the most stubborn little children you’ll ever meet. He would never put his snow suit on. He would throw a tantrum on the floor.”
Those qualities — the obsessive and stubborn dispositions — have helped Shane Richards rise from an unheralded, unwanted recruit to Manhattan College’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers, at 187 and counting.
Richards heard the doubters. He heard them say he was too slow. He heard them say his handles were loose. Most of all, he heard them say he would never play Division I basketball.
Shaun Hicks, Richards’ coach at Lab Museum United middle school, was the anti-critic. He saw the potential and instilled a bold confidence in Richards.
“He believed in me probably more than I believed in myself,” Richards says.
So Richards set out to prove everyone else wrong at a young age. He was stubborn, and refused no for an answer. That’s why he began wearing No. 0.
“I wore this number because I had big aspirations for myself and no one believed in me,” Richards says. “Even my best friends would kind of joke with me and stuff. It started as a joke and then it became more serious than that because people would tell you you can’t do something. I took that to heart and have been wearing it ever since.”
Richards trained at the Y. While his friends played pickup, he repeated drill after drill in the corner.
“People would laugh at me, but I knew it would pay off in the end,” he says.
Richards earned a spot on the Metro Hawks, a New York City-based AAU team that traveled the country and exposed its players to college coaches. By the beginning of his senior year at York Prep, almost every school that had expressed interest chose to pass.
The staffs at DePaul and Miami, according to Michael, thought Shane belonged at a lower level. Neither Siena nor Canisius saw Richards sticking in the MAAC.
New Hampshire was the only school other than Manhattan to offer Richards a scholarship.
“There was no definitive, ‘here, we want you to come here,’” Richards says about New Hampshire’s tenuous offer. “It was never, ‘we want you. Come now.’ They were beating around the bush and stuff like that.”
Not wanting to toy with the risks of entering his senior season uncommitted, Richards pledged to first-year Manhattan coach Steve Masiello in early November 2011.
“I spoke to my dad about it,” Richards says, “and he was like, ‘you know what? Just do what you want to do.’ I decided, you know, this program’s up and coming. Coach Mas was turning it around in his first year. I just thought it would be a good fit for me.”
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard split MAAC Rookie of the Year honors with Fairfield’s Amadou Sidibe after averaging 7.2 points per game and knocking down 40.4 percent of his 3-pointers, marks that rose to 8.3 and 42.1 in his sophomore campaign.
Richards’ role has expanded even more this year.
Because George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Mike Alvarado graduated, Masiello needed Richards to produce more. The guard leads the Jaspers with 31.2 minutes per game and ranks second with 12.5 points per game. Opposing defenses have keyed in on Richards, whose three-point clip has dipped to 37.8 percent, but the junior has developed enough to impact the game in other ways when teams take his shot away.
“Shane Richards is a deadly shooter,” Masiello says. “I think he’s grown into a guy that came in as a great shooter to a guy that’s become a great basketball player. That’s what I’m really proud of — that he can affect the game in so many ways.”
Masiello credits Richards’ work ethic, also citing his daily battles with Beamon in practice. The two guarded each other, and Beamon, an all-MAAC guard and NBA D-League draftee, showed no mercy against his younger teammate.
“Shane really struggled in practice,” Masiello says. “People don’t realize because of [three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year] Rhamel Brown how good of a defender George was, so now you’re going against an all-league defender, you’re going against a guy who rebounds, a playmaker and a scorer, and Shane was like, ‘This is what I want to be. This is what I want to get to.’ That was a great thing, the George Beamon factor… I think Shane was humble enough to want to learn from George.”
Richards kept plugging away — like the stubborn, obsessive kid he always had been — and improved his handles. He improved the way he moves without the ball. He became a better finisher around the rim.
The Jaspers have benefited tremendously, as Richards has eased the transition into the post Beamon/Brown/Alvarado era.
Late in Friday night’s overtime win at Saint Peter’s, in a spot where Beamon or Alvarado likely would have had the ball last year, Richards put the rock on the floor and rose for a tough 15-foot pull-up. Freshman or sophomore Shane Richards probably wouldn’t have been able to create that shot for himself. Junior Shane Richards not only created it — he also made it, helping the Jaspers pull away in the extra period.
“I think people have seen his game transform in the last eight months, especially,” Masiello says.
There is another side to Richards, a quiet, laid back kid with a mischievous sense of humor. Michael recognized those qualities helping Shane fit in with his Metro Hawks teammates, all of whom were black and hailed from different backgrounds.
“They used to call him Sugar Shane or White Chocolate because they loved him,” Michael says with a laugh. “That’s how he was. He was accepted. Not because he was white or black or orange — he was just a down-to-earth kid.”
In college, he has paired up with walk-on Trevor Glassman to pull practical jokes on teammates and coaches. Masiello’s favorite is when Richards and Glassman prank freshman Zane Waterman, a North Carolina native.
“Zane likes a food chain from the south called Bojangles’,” a smiling Masiello says. “They’re always messing with Zane, telling him there’s one there [on the road].”
“What? Don’t mess with me,” Waterman says when told a Bojangles’ is opening down the street from Draddy Gym.
Richards and Glassman have become best friends in the year since the jovial walk-on transferred to Manhattan and moved into his teammate’s suite.
“I generate the outgoing part of him,” Glassman says, “so I see sides that other people don’t always see.”
Glassman recalls a time over the summer. He and Richards were listening to music and talking about basketball in their suite, and, Glassman says, “[Richards] just randomly started breaking out dancing. He just started dancing and it was horrible.”
Even if Richards’ dance moves are nothing short of awkward, Masiello thinks his sharpshooter would win a popularity contest.
“He’s probably due to run for, what is it, homecoming king? I bet he’d be it,” Masiello says. “He’s probably one of the most popular kids on campus. He’s everything you want to represent your school and your program.”
Even if most other coaches didn’t think so.
“Now he comes back to bite them in the butt,” Michael says. “That’s a big justice for me, just to say ha ha, there you go, you dumb bunnies.”
Ari Kramer is a New York-based writer who covers the MAAC for One-Bid Wonders. Follow him on Twitter at @Ari_Kramer.