Have you ever wondered what it'd be like to be the nation's most sought-after basketball recruit? To have legendary coaches lining up at your door to steal an hour or two of your time in between school and practice? Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) senior Julius Randle, the nation's No. 1 recruit according to Rivals.com, lets you into his world.
PART III: Duke
Morning Sept. 11 – Pre-Duke
Julius Randle hunches over and breathes deep as tiny beads of sweat drop from his brow onto the shiny hardwood floor at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas).
“Come on J!” screams Randle’s skills trainer Tyler Relph. “I don’t have all day now. Three more now baby! You’re not tired. That’s all in your head.”
It’s hard to know whether Randle is ignited by Relph’s elevated tone or inspired by the fact that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistant Jeff Capel are sitting on the front bleacher 10 feet away, but Randle scoops up the ball, slices through cones with crossovers and hits a picturesque 15-foot fadeaway.
Just then a man brings his wife and kid over to the “closed” workout to ask Krzyzewski for a picture.
It’s the fifth random visitor in the last 10 minutes.
Krzyzewski obliges. Even holds short conversations with each person.
“He’s a legend,” the man says to his son who’s obviously too young to know or care. “Pure legend!”
Duke is the only school that prearranged to have Randle's whole day cleared for just them.
“It’s just what they wanted to do,” Kyles said. “I guess no one else thought of that.”
“You’ve gotta expect Coach K to be ahead of the game on some stuff,” Randle says. “That's that legend stuff.”
Kyles is mesmerized. Randle seems to be in a trance.
They knew Krzyzewski was a gifted orator, but they certainly weren’t expecting to be downright captivated.
“Wow, I mean wow,” Kyles says. “Coach K is just awesome. You can’t help but to buy in to everything he’s telling you.”
Kyles is unabashed about the fact that she grew up a Duke fan, but she’s careful to point out that “I don’t put that off on J, and it certainly won’t impact my thought process or his decision.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that Randle is sporting a LeBron James shirt since that’s the one player Krzyzewski used as an example for how he can help Randle develop.
“He said he helped LeBron out a lot with his defensive positioning and things like that while he coached him with Team USA,” Randle says. “He said that he saw me as a LeBron-type, a guy who can play and guard multiple positions. I can’t front, I was feelin’ that.”
Krzyzewski went on to talk about branding, how he’d incorporate Randle into his system and even showed him a highlight video from his time as head coach of Team USA.
“That got me hype,” Randle says. “I wanted to be a part of that. Just to see him working with all of those great players and knowing he helped develop them is something that you can’t help but to be impressed by.”
Kyles nods and adds in the fact that Krzyzewski “is tight with Kobe (Bryant) and LeBron. Those are your two favorite players.”
Randle smiles and shakes his head.
“I really like that they’re a family there,” Randle says. “He was just really confident with everything he said. Like when he said he thinks they can win it this year, I believed him. He said he wanted me to be the star for this class. Coach K telling you something like that is big.”
Randle glances down at his phone and smiles.
It’s a text from Kansas coach Bill Self asking Randle if he’s “ready to be blown away?”
“Tomorrow should be good,” he says.
To continue to Part IV, click here.