Anytime Edmond native Josh Richardson returns to this part of the country during the NBA season, the fourth-year Miami Heat player always stops at a specific Oklahoma City-based chain.
“I love Braum’s,” he says after a morning shoot-around before a game in Dallas. “Anytime [I’m in] Oklahoma or Texas, I try to go to Braum’s.”
Richardson, Miami’s second-round pick in the 2015 draft, has averaged about 17.5 points per game (a career best) this season, along with about 4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1 steal per game.
Erik Spoelstra, the Heat’s longtime head coach, chalks up Richardson’s marked improvement to hard work.
“Every year he’s gotten better,” Spoelstra says. “He put in a terrific summer of work, really dedicated time to build up his body, to have a bigger workload on both ends of the court and then a ton of player development. He’s been very dedicated.”
Richardson’s evolution as a reliable NBA player comes after four years at the University of Tennessee, where he earned first-team, All-Southeast Conference honors in 2015 and was a two-time selection to the league’s all-defensive team.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard has acclimated to living and playing in south Florida but also likes discussing the Sooner State. He says he misses Edmond and “just how relaxed it is, how carefree you can be there.
“I take a lot of pride in being an Okie,” Richardson says. “Anytime I get to talk to someone about it, especially being as far away from home as I am, it’s a subject people want to know what it’s like. And I enjoy talking about it.”
Terrance Ferguson (Oklahoma City Thunder), Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons), Ekpe Udoh (Utah Jazz) and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks) and Richardson are the only Oklahoma natives playing in the NBA. Richardson has a strong bond with Udoh, who also attended Santa Fe High School in Edmond.
“He was like six or seven years before me,” Richardson says. “Me and Ekpe keep in touch pretty well and I know Blake [Griffin] a little bit. Ekpe has always been a mentor for me, ever since I was in ninth grade. We’ve always had a good dialogue.”
The affable Richardson says he knows how much he’s changed as a professional.
“I’ve just matured a lot,” he says. “I’ve always been a mature guy, I’ve always been even-keeled, but my approach to basketball has changed.”
Richardson’s maturation is evident to Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat organization, so Miami has asked more from Richardson, who, at 25, is considered a veteran. With an uptick in responsibility, he has calmly handled pressure.
“I don’t have individual goals for him, but I want him to focus on being a dominant two-way player, which he’s capable of,” Spoelstra says.