PHILIPPI - Alderson Broaddus senior forward Richard Lemon celebrated a milestone Tuesday when he hit a floating jumper for his 1,000th career point during a stomping of Ohio Valley.
As he approached the 1,000-point mark, the significance of the personal record began to weigh on Lemon.
"Coming into college, I didn't think that I would be able to reach a milestone like that," Lemon said. "I'm from Philadelphia. And in the neighborhood that I lived in, there were drugs and violence, shootings and murders. It was like normal for your family being murdered and arrested for doing things."
Photo courtesy of Alderson Broaddus University
Alderson Broaddus senior forward Richard Lemon, at right, drives to the basket in a recent game. Lemon recently scored the 1,000th point of the career at ABU. Shooting hoops helped elevate Lemon beyond the streets of his rough neighborhood.
Growing up in a rough neighborhood and moving on to greater things only makes Lemon's most recent athletic achievement that much sweeter, proving just how far one can make it with the right attitude and work ethic.
"I'm the first person in my family to go to college," he said. "I mean, coming from Philly made me who I am, but I'm happy that I was able to do something else than everyone in my neighborhood."
Shooting hoops helped elevate Lemon beyond the streets of his rough neighborhood. It was also a pursuit which provided the opportunity for mentors to take notice of the promising youth.
"I found basketball as an outlet, and people helped me along the way, as far as like coaches and teachers," Lemon continued. "They helped me to get to the point that I'm at - to keep me out of trouble and I was able to get a scholarship to play basketball."
AB men's basketball Head Coach Greg Zimmerman is one of those mentors.
"I want to thank my coach for giving me the opportunity," Lemon said. "A lot of people didn't know about me coming out of high school because I was injured so much. Coming here, he gave me an opportunity because he kept pushing me."
Zimmerman has been a motivating force, Lemon said, as have his teammates.
"He has his way of challenging players, so I'd like to thank him for being my coach and my teammates for being my teammates," he continued. "Everybody in this town has been supportive, and I appreciate them."
As much as Lemon offered a glowing review of ABU, the Battlers basketball team, Zimmerman and the community of Philippi, by all accounts, the feeling appears to be mutual.
"He's a great kid, and he's loved by everybody because he's got such a pleasant personality," Zimmerman said. "Our fans and a lot of the local businessmen, he's gotten to know them, and they really like him because he's such an easy going, very polite kid - very sincere. Even though he's from the big city, he loves our environment and loves our people around our little community here."
Not only did Zimmerman offer a glowing review of Lemon's stellar personality, but he continued to sing his praises as a crucial player on a cohesive team.
"He came in as a freshman, played a lot as a freshman and started the last three years," Zimmerman continued. "He's been an all-conference player the last two years. He can do a little bit of everything; he can rebound, he's a strong inside score, he can pass the ball, he can handle the ball, he can guard several different positions."
And Lemon doesn't just excel in athletics, Zimmerman said.
"He's done a great job in the classroom; he's on track to graduate after four years here, so he's done everything we've asked him to do as a kid coming in here," he said.
Dennis Creehan is the athletic director at ABU. He also has taken notice of Lemon, athletically and academically.
"Richard has been an integral part of our team throughout his career here at AB," Creehan said. "He is a quality young man who provides leadership both on and off the court, and we wish him the very best as he completes his career here at AB."
Ever the coach of a team that relies on the participation of all of its players, Zimmerman was quick to point out two other standout seniors - one who has already reached the 1,000-point milestone, Malcolm Tatum, of Baltimore, and one who is approaching the mark, Thylas Perkins, of Chicago.
"Malcolm Tatum is a senior this year, too, and same thing; he came in and he's well over a thousand points," Zimmerman said. "He started all four years here and he was player of the year in our conference last year - an All American."
"And Thylas Perkins, who's a senior this year; he's 100 points away from reaching his 1,000 points, too," Zimmerman continued. "They're all inner-city kids who have come to this little town of Philippi. They're three seniors that have been playing for us for the last three years and they're all great kids, all set to graduate on time."
Lemon, Tatum and Perkins have won back-to-back conference championships, and back-to-back conference tournament championships the last two years. All three have been named all-conference two years running.
"Its a pretty good trio. They are all great kids. They have been model students and citizens here. They just do the right things and they just do what they're supposed to do, and you don't see a lot of that nowadays."
Playing on a tight-knit squad forges long-lasting friendships, Lemon said.
"There are relationships every year there are people added to the list of people that I'm never going to forget," Lemon said. "We all see each other as brothers, even though we all come from different places, we use basketball to relate to one another. It helps us off the court because we have a strong relationship on the court."
The cohesion between the team members continues to grow, Lemon said.
"Throughout the past two years, we've just been building a chemistry with each other, and now all three of us are seniors. So now everybody looks to us to lead the team," Lemon said, regarding the weight of responsibility he and his fellow seniors feel towards the entire team.
"They're great to play basketball with," he said of Tatum and Perkins. "Not only on the court, but they're my friends off the court. They understand where we come from and all the things that were going on around us and what we had to go through to get to where we are today."
Thus far in Lemon's career, along with scoring 1,000 points, he has played in 103 games, grabbed 628 rebounds, and racked up 222 assists, 63 blocks, 81 steals, 196 turnovers and 17 double doubles.