Even though Anthony Richards spends plenty of time with "The Gun," don't get the wrong impression. It's not like he's packing heat.
But he is on the verge of shooting his way into WPIAL glory.
Richards is a senior guard for the New Castle High School basketball team. A varsity player since his freshman year, he has 297 career 3-pointers heading into Saturday's PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals. Three more 3-pointers and he will join an elite group of WPIAL marksmen, including two who have made big impacts on NCAA basketball this season.
Only three players in WPIAL history have made 300 3-pointers in their careers. Highlands' Micah Mason (2008-12) holds the record with 346. Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell (2006-10) had 334 and Mike Colbert, also from Chartiers Valley (1994-98), had 302.
Mason, a sophomore at Duquesne University, led the country in 3-point percentage during the regular season. McConnell, a junior at the University of Arizona, is a finalist for the Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in the country.
"I've never really thought about the 300 3-pointers that much, but being in any category with T.J. McConnell and Micah Mason, I can't even believe I'm in the same conversation with them," Richards said. "Micah Mason is just unbelievable and T.J. is starting for maybe the best team in the country."
Richards has 94 3-pointers this season, an average of 3.3 a game. He had a school record nine in one game.
Richards will tell you that he's not sure if shooters are born or can be made. But one thing is for sure, he's worked countless hours at his shooting and "The Gun" has been his best friend.
"The Gun" is an electric shooting machine with a large net that surrounds the basket. Balls are shot at the basket, the net holds the balls and sends them into a machine, which can fire balls back to a player as fast as every two seconds.
Many high schools, colleges and pro teams have "The Gun." It's not uncommon for Richards to wheel out the machine for use before -- or after -- New Castle practices. In the summer, he would usually shoot on "The Gun" an average of six days a week, with 400 to 500 shots a day. Richards often bothers New Castle coach Ralph Blundo to let him in the gym to use "The Gun."
"One thing about Anthony since he's been young is that he developed a habit of working hard and getting up a lot of shots for practice, whether it's in the season or all summer," said Dave Richards, Anthony's father and a New Castle assistant coach. "Even when they're not practicing, you'll catch him in the gym getting "The Gun" out by himself."
Richards is only 5 feet 8. You can call him "Little Richards," but he has been gigantic for New Castle, and not just because of his shooting. Richards averages 12.9 points and has scored more than 1,000 in his career, but his defense has been superb and Blundo has called him probably the hardest working player he has ever coached. It's not a good New Castle game if Richards doesn't dive on the floor for a loose ball at least a couple times.
New Castle basketball is in his blood. His father, a 1980 graduate, played at New Castle as did Anthony's older brothers, Dave and Chris. The Richards' mother, Doreen, is a former New Castle cheerleader.
Anthony Richards is well-versed in New Castle basketball history. He has been part of three consecutive WPIAL titles. The Red Hurricanes also won three in a row from 1998-2000.
"Actually, I still have newspaper clippings from those [1998-2000] teams in my room," he said. "One of the players on those teams was Ed Pagley and my family was close to his family. I looked up to those guys. I still remember running around the house when I was little saying, 'I'm Ed Pagley, I'm Ed Pagley.'"
Anthony Richards has signed with West Virginia Wesleyan, a Division II college where his brother, Dave, is an assistant coach. But foremost on Anthony's mind now is a PIAA title, something New Castle has never won.
No matter what happens with the Red Hurricanes' team in the next week, somewhere in New Castle, maybe there is another little kid running around saying "I'm Anthony Richards, I'm Anthony Richards."