Despite being the youngest member of the United States U-18 team, 6’9″ Julius Randle led the squad, which included one college sophomore and nine incoming college freshmen, in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots.
When speaking of Randle, USA Men’s U-18 National Team finalist and fellow Duke recruit Austin Nichols said, “He’s like a 6’9” point guard. He’s huge, he can get in the lane whenever he wants to. He’s a great player. He can shoot it, he can dribble, he can do whatever. I love playing with him. He makes me better every single time. He raises your game.” In the FIBA Americas Championship game against Brazil, the tournament’s home country, Randle rose to the occasion, as the McKinney, Texas native scored eighteen points and grabbed twelve rebounds to help Team USA secure the gold medal.
This was not the first championship for Randle, an avid Lakers fan, this year. In March, he led Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, TX, to its second state high school title in his three years. The left-handed Randle scored twenty-six points in the team’s championship victory over John Paul II HS, also of Plano.
Prestonwood played a very challenging schedule, competing in the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina, the HoopHall Classic in Massachusetts, and the City of Palms in Florida, where the then-junior Randle captured the MVP award, after outplaying seniors Ricardo Gathers, Shabazz Muhammad, and Isaiah Austin in consecutive games. For the season, Randle, a MaxPreps Junior All-American, averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for the Lions.
On the AAU circuit, the ultra-competitive Randle forms a lethal one-two punch with 6’5″ Matt Jones, a sharpshooter who has committed to Duke University, for the Texas Titans. One Titans parent described them as their version of Batman and Robin. They play with the trust, comfort, mutual respect, and seamlessness that is formed by playing together over the years on the hardwood and asphalt. The duo has helped lead the Titans to a 15-5 record during Nike’s EYBL games, where Randle’s mother, Carolyn, a former basketball player at University of Texas-Arlington, has been a constant and steadying presence.
Julius Randle, who veteran scout Tom Konchalski described as having “a Wayman Tisdale body,” has been as dominant as any player over the duration of the Nike EYBL season. Despite being frequently double-teamed, he’s leading or among the leaders in multiple statistical categories, including total points, rebounds, free throw attempts, and defensive rebounds, and in total has averaged ten rebounds and nearly eighteen points per game during EYBL play.
In the marquee matchup of the AAU season, Randle and Jabari Parker, the consensus top two players in the class of 2013, went head-to-head in Oakland, California as part of the Nike EYBL. On a court with as many as four future professionals, Randle dominated the game, scoring 23 points and snatching 13 rebounds, while Jones helped hold Parker to fourteen points and six rebounds in the Titans’ 63-59 victory. Many were hoping for a rematch at the upcoming Peach Jam, but Parker suffered a foot injury while competing with the USA U-17 team in Kaunas, Lithuania, and will reportedly be sidelined for Nike’s marquee AAU event.
After Randle visited the Duke campus in Durham, NC last January, the Blue Devil coaching staff was a fixture at Randle’s AAU games in April. Duke coach Jeff Capel has now developed a lengthy and strong relationship with the Texas star and his mother. The recent commitment of 6’8″ wing Rodney Hood may mean that the 6’9″ Randle becomes Duke’s primary recruiting target in the class of 2013.
Over the past year, Randle’s work with trainers Jeff Webster and Tyler Relph, both former college basketball players, has helped him improve his ball-handling as well as his conditioning and speed by trimming his body fat through intensive cardiovascular work.
Recently, Julius Randle spoke with me about a variety of topics, including what he’ll be looking for in a college program, the matchup with Jabari Parker, and playing alongside Matt Jones.
Let’s start with USA Basketball.
It was a great experience. I mean, it was a way different experience than anything I ever had. It was really amazing for me and I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t talk to you right after the matchup with Jabari, but it seemed like both of you guys were pretty emotional both before and after the game.
Yeah, yeah, it was highly anticipated all weekend. I just had to go out there and do what I had to do.
What was the mindset going in and what were you feeling after you got the win and you played great?
My mindset was pretty much the same as any other game, which is to go out there and destroy. To just go out there and be who I am. I put a lot of hard work in and it helps me to build my confidence and so I expect to see results.
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