By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Ayden Richmond’s reward for winning the Elks Hoop Shoot state competition was a trip to the regional in Angola, Ind. and a mid-year family reunion.
After winning the regional, he received a pair of trophies and a trip to Springfield, Mass., for the national championship. Should he claim a national title, Richmond will receive an honor most basketball players can only imagine in their dreams.
“I get my name in the Hall of Fame if I win,” Richmond, a 9-year-old third grader at Cork Elementary said. “I never really thought about that.”
Richmond, the son of Jeff and Jodi (Springer) Richmond, made 24 of his 25 free throws to claim the regional crown. He was also named the tournament’s Bob Bartolameolli Top Shooter Award for having the best score among all male competitors, for which he received the game ball and a plaque.
“I was pretty excited about that,” Ayden Richmond said. “I didn’t know they had a trophy (for being the top scorer).”
By becoming one of the 12 national qualifiers who will compete at Western New England University on April 20, Ayden Richmond has defied some long odds.
“There are 72 kids left (in all age groups) out of 1.3 million who started the event,” Jeff Richmond said. “At the state level, there were 43,000 -some competitors. I told him he didn’t quite know the opportunity he had to have his name permanently in the Hall of Fame.”
Usually pretty focused while competing, Ayden Richmond was much more loose in Indiana.
“He was really relaxed,” Jeff Richmond said. “He had made friends with the other Ohio kids and I think that was part of it. He was much more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him. I almost thought he was too loose.”
With an older boy and girl, also from Ohio, heading to the national competition with him, Ayden Richmond should be able to duplicate that loose feeling.
“It’s good that two Ohio kids will be coming with me,” Ayden Richmond said.
An Ohio State fan, Ayden Richmond’s lone goal entering the regional was to beat the competitor from Michigan. He did that easily as the boy made just 19 of his attempts. The runner-up, the shooter from Indiana, made 23 of his shots.
Once again, Ayden Richmond didn’t know he’d won until he peered up in to the stands.
“He didn’t know until after,” Jeff Richmond said. “The funny thing is, the Michigan kid was sitting down while the Indiana kid was shooting. The Indiana kid was on fire and the Michigan kid started crying because he knew he’d lost.
“He saw the kid crying and I was worried that would freak him out that the Indiana boy was on fire. I asked him what he thought when he saw the boy crying and he said that he just knew the Michigan kid was out.”
For those following Ayden Richmond’s story, there’s a way to lend him support without packing up and driving to Massachusetts.
“If you go to the Elks website and follow the links, you can see all of the scores from all of the regions,” Jeff Richmond said. “Ayden was the top scorer until last weekend. Right now, he’s one of the top three scorers going into nationals with that 24.
“People can send good-luck messages to the kids through the sight and the organizers will print them out and give them to the kids before they compete.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.