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 I: NC State and Kentucky
PART II: North Carolina
Morning Sept. 10 – Pre-North Carolina
The steady squeak of sneakers on the Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) gym floor provides a deafening soundtrack as Julius Randle and his teammates tough-out a grueling 7:45 a.m. workout.
Watching Randle can make you green with envy.
He breezes through drills with so much ease and efficiency that you almost fool yourself into believing that being able to cross-over, stop on a dime, spin, go back the opposite way and finish with a windmill is something practice can get you.
“That’s God-given man,” says Moss Point (Moss Point, Miss.) shooting guard Devin Booker. “I once tried to stop him in transition at LeBron’s Camp and ended up near the baseline.”
That’s precisely where Texas coach Rick Barnes and assistant Russell Springmann are posted on this cool September morning. Randle may have the Tar Heels on his mind, but clearly he's atop others' minds.
Moves like these can pay huge dividends with Randle, who says, "A big part of my decision will be about how close I am with the coaches. I like those relationships."
Springmann’s claim to fame is luring Kevin Durant to Texas back in 2006. Even named his son “Durant.”
“If that’s not a bond,” Randle says. “I don’t know what is.”
Randle plops down on the metal rollaway bleachers after the hour-long workout.
Like most 17-year-olds, Randle whips out his cell immediately to scan for messages. When asked about what he’s expecting from his visit with Williams, Randle shrugs and pauses.
“I’ve always got a good vibe from Coach Williams,” he says. “He’s pretty straightforward. Just laid back and reserved most of the time. I guess I’m expecting him to be him. Nothing different.”
Prestonwood Christian coach Chris Mayberry opens the door at Randle’s house with one of those “kid at Christmas” grins. Kyles is in the kitchen wearing a similar smile and though Randle tries to buck the tide and remain “neutral looking” he fails miserably in a matter of seconds.
They snicker in unison.
“This visit was just awesome,” Kyles says. “I mean just awesome.”
“The best way to describe it was different,” Randle says. “I mean it was just out of the box for Coach Williams. I had a great time.”
Randle couldn’t have been more wrong about Williams’ laid back, reserved approach. On this night, Williams was just one of the boys.
“It wasn’t anything special," Randle says."It was just the whole mood as soon as they walked in. I’ve been tired all week and this visit woke me up.”
Williams brought along assistants Hubert Davis and Steve Robinson.
“They were pretty lively,” Mayberry says. “It was a good time. They definitely left happy.”
Happy and full.
Especially Davis, who frequented the kitchen counter to get Kyles’ homemade chicken wings, broccoli casserole and brownies.
“Yeah, Hubert got missing a lot tonight,” Kyles says. “It was funny because we’d look over by the food and he’d be eating, again. He was funny, but he sure liked my cooking. They all did.”
Randle liked Williams unexpected approach. Especially when he whipped out the black case filled with 30 championship rings - everything from conference titles to national titles - that he's won over the years.
“He said he was stepping outside of the box because I’m an out-of-the-box type of player,” Randle says.
“Yeah, usually coach Williams is this laid-back guy who’s like your dad and you just feel so comfortable talking to him,” Kyles says. “Tonight, he had us rolling.”
“Those rings were a nice touch,” says Mayberry. "They were shiny, that's for sure."
“Yeah all 30 of them,” Randle says. “I couldn’t believe that he had Michael Jordan’s 1992 championship ring. Coach came strong tonight.”
The only thing missing was a flying chest-bump and a call to Jordan.
“That would’ve been insane,” Mayberry says. “Illegal, but insane.” “Man if he would’ve called M.J. I might’ve cancelled the rest of the visits,” Kyles jokes.
They all laugh.
Kyles gets a text from Baylor that just repeats the word “Baylor” over and over.
“What in the world,” Kyles says with a laugh. “They sure are persistent.”
Seconds later her phone buzzes again. Then Randle’s. It’s Duke assistant Jeff Capel informing them that he’s in town.
“My boy Capel,” Kyles says. “They’re ready for tomorrow.”
“They stay ready,” Randle says. “That’s Duke.”
To continue to Part III, click here.