Travante Richard has come a long way since his first year playing varsity basketball as a sophomore three years ago.
Last year in a game against Central Catholic in Sonora, Richard didn’t get off the bench because he was wore fluorescent colored shoes, going against his coach’s wishes.
“We brought him another pair of shoes to wear and when he didn’t put the other shoes on, that really surprised me,” said Merced coach Hector Nava.
Richard blossomed into a leader, willing to sacrifice his scoring to get teammates involved. The result was a co-Central California Conference championship for Merced and run to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 semifinals.
Richard was eventually named the CCC MVP and is our choice as Sun-Stars Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I saw a big difference in him,” Nava said. “As a senior, he stepped up to the plate. Seniors are supposed to lead and did a good job of leading by example. We didn’t have to worry about issues like the shoes.
“You could see when he was a sophomore he was going to be a great player. He played his role. As a junior he tried to lead but he didn’t know how to do it yet. His senior year he was a leader. I think a lot of the credit goes to coach (Rob) Scheidt and the football program. By the time he got to me it was easy for him.”
Richard was the CCC football MVP after hauling in 51 catches for 730 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading the Bears to a conference championship.
He was just as dominant on the basketball court, averaging 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.
“Becoming a leader wasn’t really easy,” Richard said. “It was something I had to do. I really like to score, but I had to give that up. I had to be unselfish. For us to be a better team I had to let others score. I showed that I’ve grown up.”
Richard made a commitment to be a strong defensive player. The rest of the team followed suit and the Bears defense was a big reason for the team’s success.
“I took a lot of pride in my defense,” Richard said. “If a player tries to score on me – in my mind – he’s trying to say he’s better than me. I’m going to try do defend you and stop you from scoring.”
At 6-foot-4, Richard was the Bears tallest player, however, he has the speed and athleticism to play anywhere on the court.
“The thing about Travante is he’s a scorer,” Nava said. “He’s going to figure out a way to score. At times he’ll knock down a three. At times I see him making moves like a college player to attack the basket. On defense he’s definitely able to guard guards and post players. His versatility is unbelievable. His versatility made us hard to stop.”
Richard may have sacrificed his scoring this year but there were still times when he took over games for the Bears. He came through when they needed him.
He made two clutch free throws in the final seconds to hold off an upset-minded Buhach Colony team late in the season. He scored 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in a 61-51 win over Golden Valley to clinch the CCC co-championship. He also came through with 22 of Merced’s 38 points in a 38-37 win over Franklin in the quarterfinal playoff game.
“It’s been a special senior year so far,” Richard said. “It’s made school go by really fast. People are talking about sports at school every day. The support we’ve got from Merced has been great. It made us look forward to practice and look forward to playing every game.”
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.