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WU’s Richardson Excited to Be Part of MEC

WHEELING — When Chris Richardson was announced as the head men’s basketball coach at Wheeling University in late July, he and his staff went straight to work on his first recruiting class. Already being behind the 8-ball a bit, Richardson also faced another obstacle in terms of recruiting.

With the coronavirus pandemic, universities weren’t allowing recruits to visit campus in person. With that, Richardson learned something new in his first few days at his new job.

“I learned how useful the IPhone 11 is,” Richardson said. “I had to go get a new phone and we have to try to show guys pictures, videos and that sort of thing. Once that I got that new phone with the nicer camera, I felt a lot better about sending pictures and them being in better quality.”

Quality is also an important term when it comes to relationships with recruits. According to Richardson, it goes much further on building a relationship with an athlete.

“Recruiting in really everything in basketball comes down to relationships,” Richardson said. “It comes down to not just your relationship with the kid, but the relationships you build with his family, with his coaches and the people around him. The other relationship that kind of gets overlooked is the relationship you have with your school. If you don’t have a great relationship with your school or you don’t believe what you have to offer, they’ll jump off board with you. We really believe in what we have at Wheeling. We believe in our people on campus and we believe in our leadership.”

With that strong mindset, Richardson had a successful first stint in recruiting.

Just over a month later, Richardson announced his first recruiting class. The incoming class includes eight players from five different states (Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Texas) and Jamaica.

“We got a lot of the guys we targeted from the beginning,” Richardson said. “We had a really strong group of returning guys who understand the Mountain East and understand what you have to do to play in this league night in and night out.”

One of those players in Richardson’s recruiting class is a local product in Wheeling Central’s Brent Price. Price was a key component of the Maroon Knights’ to the 2018 West Virginia Class A state championship.

Price also played two years at Harcum College. The Bears went 50-13 during that span.

“He is a great kid,” Richardson said. “He’s got a great personality and I haven’t seen him have a bad day yet. He’s always so positive and our guys kind of feed off of him in that regard. They know he’s going to come through the door with great energy. He’s been well-coached. The other thing with BP, he grew up here and knows what this program can be.”

As for Richardson, he is no stranger to the Mountain East Conference. Although, it’s his first year as a head coach, he has a little history with a pair of MEC teams. He was an assistant coach for Charleston (2010-11) and Fairmont State (2011-12) when both teams were in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

There was just something about the MEC for Richardson. While he was an assistant coach in the Gulf South Conference and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, the first conference that he would check on for the scores was the one that has its headquarters located in Bridgeport, West Virginia.

“When I was at Delta State or my six years at Central Missouri, the first conference I would pull up would be the Mountain East. I wanted to see what was going on back at home. I have had a lot of friends that have chosen this league and a lot of them are still coaching in this league. I’ve got tremendous respect for the programs, the coaches and the players. It’s a high-level conference in Division II. That’s fun to be a part of something like that, but it’s also challenging. It’s going to be a battle every night, no matter who we are playing. I’m sure I’m going to be looking at the Mountain East scores when I get back on the bus, but it’s going to be in a different context than it used to be. Now it’s my reality.”

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