CHICAGO — Quentin Richardson likes bowling, playing video games with his friends in the dorms and going to the movies. In short, he's like most 19-year-old college sophomores.
The DePaul guard is also one of the best players in the country, a 6-foot-7 phenom who should be a lottery pick. The consensus national freshman of the year last season, he could be a millionaire right now if he'd wanted, complete with a shoe contract and an NBA trading card.
But unlike so many others in recent years, Richardson put the fame and fortune of the NBA on hold. Risking injury or a bad season that could send his draft stock plummeting, he chose college life for at least one more year.
"Yeah, I get to be a kid for another year," he said, breaking into a broad smile.
"I just didn't feel I needed to make that move yet. I didn't feel like I came and won any type of championship or anything here. I felt like everything I had accomplished was individual."
Oh, but look at those accomplishments. His 10.5 rebounds a game were seventh best in the country, tops of any freshman. His 18.9 points a game were third-best of any freshman.
He took DePaul, a once-proud program that had fallen to basketball's nether regions, to the brink of the NCAA tournament.
"He means a lot to DePaul and to Chicago," DePaul coach Pat Kennedy said. "What is more rewarding to me is that he's having such a great career. You try to sell a kid on 'You can build something, you can be something special by resurrecting this program.' Then you keep your fingers crossed and hope other guys who come believe in what we talked about."
Though he was projected as a middle to late first-round draft pick, Richardson said April 5 he was staying in school. He's now a preseason All-American and favorite for player of the year.
"Any 18-year-old kid, if you say, 'You can go to the NBA and make a lot of money,' at first you're going to be like, 'Yeah, yeah, I want to go,"' Richardson said. "But there comes a point where you've got to seriously sit down and say, 'What do I want to do?' Once I did that, it wasn't that hard for me."
Deciding to stay or go is risky business. Tim Duncan stayed at Wake Forest all four years and ended up as player of the year and the No. 1 pick. Dion Glover, the third-leading freshman scorer in the nation in 1997-98, stuck around and blew out his knee during Georgia Tech's first practice.
Glover still was taken 20th overall in this year's draft, but he probably would have gone higher if he'd been healthy last season.
"I've never had any serious injuries," said Richardson, who does have an insurance policy. "I really wasn't thinking about the injury aspect. I felt like another year could only make it better for me."
Richardson knows better than most the chance he's taking. He knows just how quickly life can change because he's seen it happen too many times.
In October 1991, when Quentin was 11, his maternal grandmother, Ada Cox, died. Five months later, his brother, Bernard, was shot and killed. Two months after that, in June 1992, his mother, Emma, died of breast cancer.
"It was real bad," said Lee Richardson Sr., who was so overcome with grief at his wife's death that he was hospitalized. "It's still hard, certain things."
It was Emma Richardson who used to play basketball with Quentin in the driveway of their home on Chicago's South Side. The boy loved the game, playing whenever he could and carrying a ball everywhere.
Lee Richardson still laughs as he recalls the fingerprints his son left all over the walls of their house.
"That's all he did was play ball," he said. "He turned out to be pretty good."
He was in high school when he and his family realized he wasn't just pretty good, he was scary good. College coaches started calling and recruiting letters came every day.
Schools all over the country wanted him, but he decided to stay at home.
"There's no place like home," he said. "Playing in front of everybody you grew up around and who watched you from high school on up, and everybody knows about you, that's a great feeling."
It was concern for his family that made Richardson consider turning pro in the first place. His father has worked as a motorman with the Chicago Transit Authority for 32 years, and his son wanted to help him retire.
No way, the elder Richardson said.
"I told him I was doing OK, he didn't need to worry about me," he said. "I've always wanted him to get his education. I'd be happy if he stayed for all four years.
"He can always play basketball," he added. "The college years are the best years of his life."
Most assume that Richardson will leave after this season, and even Kennedy expects him to go if he'll be a top-five pick.
But Richardson hasn't made up his mind yet.
"I'm going to deal with it, taking it day by day, just wait to see how everything works out because who knows?" he said. "At the end of this year, I may still like being at DePaul and having fun and things like that. Right now, I'm just having a lot of fun."