EUGENE — Will Richardson’s dad was in favor of him heading across the country to play at Oregon.
His mom was a little more cautious.
“I told her that eventually I would have to go out on my own,” said Richardson, who is from Hinesville, Ga.
Richardson decided to move away from home one year early to play his senior season at national power Oak Hill Academy before joining the Ducks next year.
“My dad said it would help prepare me for playing with other top people,” Richardson said.
Richardson gave Oregon fans a preview of his game when Oak Hill — ranked second in the nation by USA Today — won the Les Schwab Invitational last week in Hillsboro to improve to 21-0. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound lefty averaged 10.3 points, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals while playing about 24 minutes per game as the Warriors won four games by an average of 35 points per game.
Richardson never left the court in the title game when he had 10 points and three assists to help the Warriors defeat 18th-ranked Mater Dei 67-55.
“He’s our team leader, the point guard, and he’s very cerebral as far as playing that position,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “What I like most about him as a player is that he sees the play ahead of everyone else and he usually makes the right play. He has a real good feel for the game, so you don’t have to coach him every play.
“Some guys you have to coach, especially at that position, to get them to play the way you want to play, but we coached him in September and October and now he just plays.”
Richardson helped Liberty County High School win the Class 4A state title in Georgia as a sophomore before averaging 31.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists last season.
He transferred to Oak Hill Academy, which was named the nation’s top high school basketball team last year for the ninth time in Smith’s 34 years at the school. The academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., has sent Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson and plenty of others onto the NBA.
Smith compared Richardson to a couple of other left-handed point guards from Oak Hill — Brandon Jennings, a first-round pick by Milwaukee in 2009 who spent nine years in the NBA, and Marcus Williams, the former UConn guard who was drafted in the first round by New Jersey in 2006.
“Will is more like Marcus than Brandon,” Smith said. “Brandon was real athletic and a scoring point guard while Marcus just runs your team but also had the ability to score if you want to.”
Richardson hit the game-winning shot on a short jumper last month in a 73-71 win over IMG Academy, which was ranked No. 8 in the country, at the Chick-Fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C.
“He had no intentions of passing the ball and that was a good thing,” Smith said. “He went to the basket and made a good play, it was not a forced shot. He felt like he was going to win the game, and that is what he did.
“We have three other high Division I players and they didn’t mind because they wanted to win the game. When they saw him break his guy down, they knew he was going to the basket.”
Richardson acknowledged the season has had “ups and downs” as he adjusts to playing at a new school with a star-studded lineup that includes 6-10 senior David McCormack, who has signed with Kansas, and 6-7 Keldon Johnson, who is headed to Kentucky. Keyontae Johnson, a 6-5 guard, is headed to Florida.
“We have big crowds everywhere we go,” Richardson said. “It helps me a lot to play with other Division I talent and play in front of big crowds.”
Ben Simmons, who was the most valuable player of the Les Schwab Invitational in 2014, sat in the front row at Liberty High School with a few teammates from the Philadelphia 76ers last Wednesday to watch Richardson and the Warriors defeat Barlow 102-51 in the first round of the tournament. Oregon coach Dana Altman was just a few seats down from Simmons and met up with his future point guard after the game.
“He really wanted me and he’s really the reason why I came here,” Richardson said of Altman. “He is a great coach and a great person who gets kids to the next level.”
Richardson is a four-star recruit ranked among the top 50 players in the nation by both ESPN and 247Sports.com. He took an official visit to Oregon with his mother during the last weekend of September.
“My mom liked the facilities and the education,” Richardson said. “My dad liked the coaches and the program and what they did with the team last year and how they developed players.”
Richardson considered waiting until the spring to choose between Oregon, Gonzaga, and Georgia before signing with the Ducks last month.