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By LARRY VAUGHT
Coach Chris Mayberry knows he’s biased when it comes to his star player, 6-9 Julius Randle. Yet even though Randle is a consensus top five player in the country, Mayberry thinks the Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian standout is even better than he’s being given credit for.
“I think he can play anything from one (point guard) to five (center),” said Mayberry. “I really mean that he’s not just the best player in the country, but he’s going to be the best for a long time. There are a lot of talented players out there, but I’ve seen him up close for a few years now and he is that good. He’s just extra special.”
He missed most of the season — Mayberry says he played in only seven games and in two of those games he only played about a half — with a foot injury before returning Feb. 15. He came back to lead Prestonwood Christian to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial School’s 5A state championship.
In the championship game, Randle scored 10 of his game-high 34 points in overtime in a 71-66 win over Fort Worth Nolan that gave his team a second straight title. Randle made four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win and also finished with 22 rebounds.
In the semifinals, the senior forward had 40 points — he was 16-for-24 from the field and made two 3-pointers — and 15 rebounds and five blocked shots against Plano John Paul II. Kansas coach Bill Self was at the game to watch Randle, who is expected to announce his college choice in the next three weeks. He has narrowed his choices to Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina State, Florida and Oklahoma.
Randle had 35 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in his team’s first playoff win. His team won five straight games after he came back and won the state title despite finishing the season 15-19. The team was 27-4 in 2012 when it won the state title.
“I not sure how many state champions have ever had 19 losses,” Mayberry said. “We did not have the team we thought we would. I lost one of the best sophomores in the country to a torn ACL before the year started and then Julius got hurt. I had scheduled a national schedule, and it got pretty tough at times.
“For a few days, Julius really struggled with being hurt and not playing. I am sure there were days and nights that were really hard on him watching his team get beat up when he knew if he was healthy he could change that. But I think he handled it all well and knows it was part of God’s plan and he just tried to continue to get better.”
Mayberry wasn’t surprised that his star played so well when he came back.
“He trained for a little while before he came back to make sure everything was good,” Mayberry said. “I am just said that people did not get to see all of what he had been doing in training. He’s really improved his outside shot and leadership. Teams tried to take him away from the rim and loaded up on stopping his post game. I let him play on the perimeter some and he made tons of perimeter shots. I know what he is capable of and just think he will be one of the best players for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Randle, a left-hander, certainly gets high marks from recruiting analysts. DraftExpress.com lists his strengths as outstanding athlete, great first step, tremendous ballhandler for his size with excellent body control, rare combination of finesse and power, back to the basket game, lethal in transition, able to draw fouls, willing to play inside and competes on defense.
Scout.com lists his strengths as low block scorer, strength and attack mode. The profile includes: “Randle is an aggressive low post scorer. The power forward has a variety of scoring moves, can finish through contact and likes to face up defenders and attack the basket. He owns his area rebounding wise, is a defensive presence and is one of the premiere athletes that the 2013 class has to offer.”
ESPN.com called him a “pro in the making” and lists his willingness to rebound, drive and ability to weigh options inside or outside on offense as his strengths.
Next: Randle’s all-star game possibilities and when decision on college might be coming.