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By LARRY VAUGHT
Julius Randle’s faith plays into his attitude on and off the basketball court.
“He’s a very religious kid,” Chris Mayberry, Randle’s high school coach, said. “He has kind of been in a bit of a Christian atmosphere here, but there is going to be a big difference between here and Kentucky. I am not dumb. I know what goes on in college. I am excited, though, for him to make an impact on others and he’s going to have the opportunity to influence a lot of people.”
Randle credits his faith for getting him where he is today.
“Without my faith, none of this stuff would be possible. I wouldn’t be playing basketball at Kentucky,” Randle said. “There were a lot of times I could have gone different ways in my life, but somebody I can always count on to be there for me is God. It has definitely been good for me.”
Again, he says his mother instilled that faith in him at an early age much like she did his competitive nature. He says going to Prestonwood Christian helped him grow as a person and athlete.
“I think it was just better overall as far as me being surrounded by good people, better education, molded me as person and my mom thought it was a great fit for me, and it was. I loved it,” Randle said.
He says his mother, Carolyn Kyles, a former basketball player at Texas, and his mentor, Jeff Webster, a former player at Oklahoma, have had the biggest influences on his basketball career. Webster scored 2,258 points and had 781 rebounds at Oklahoma and played briefly in the NBA.
“When you have somebody that has been through all of this before — second all-time leading scorer at Oklahoma, played in the NBA, played overseas, been a McDonald’s All-American, highly recruited, been all this stuff — you can go to him for advice any day,” he said. “My mom is the same way. She played college basketball and all that stuff. Those are people I can always go to.
“My mom used to critique my game all the time. My sophomore year she laid back a lot more, but before that she was on me, always critiquing me. If I didn’t play a good game, she wouldn’t even talk to me. She was tough on me, but it made me who I am today.”
But there was one thing she would never let him do.
“I wanted to play football, but it was always basketball. Now that I look back, I am glad I didn’t play football. My mom wouldn’t let me. She wasn’t having any of it,” he laughed and said.
Just like he won’t have any of the potential NBA draft talk that already has him among the top picks in the 2014 draft.
“It is not really something I can focus on right now. I have to focus on getting up at 6:45 and going running,” Randle said. “That is really what is on my mind. It is not something to worry about. I just focus on getting better as a player, school and making sure my family is OK and going from there. All the NBA stuff is a long way off.”
Until then, he knows parts of his game might be a bit underestimated by Kentucky fans until they actually see him play.
“I would probably have to say my defense is underrated. Guys like Nerlens (Noel) came here who are known as defensive players, but I take as much pride in my defense. I don’t like people scoring on me,” Randle said.
What about that explosive first step he has to get into the lane?
“I have heard that, too. I don’t think people realize I am as quick as I am when I get on the court,” Randle said.
Marcus Lee does. He doesn’t underestimate any parts of Randle’s game after playing against him almost daily for four months.
“I think he can be the next LeBron James. He’s that good,” Lee said.