NORTH AUGUSTA, Ga — . Youre not supposed to be able to dribble the basketball the way Julius Randle can, not at 6-9 and 240 pounds.
Randle refuses to be just another low-block, back-to-the-basket power forward, even though thats the position his size suggests and the one assigned to him by recruiting services.
With an incredible handle, and palpable aggression, the soon-to-be high school senior from Dallas put on a show Thursday afternoon at the Peach Jam with his Texas Titans team in the Elite Youth Basketball League finals.
Randle, maybe the best player at what is annually the best collection of talent on the recruiting circuit, wowed the litany of Division I coaches who lined the court for his first game on Thursday. He scored 34 points with 16 rebounds and three assists in the Titans 81-72 win over Wisconsin Playground Elite.
Randle handled the ball, scored in traffic, scored in transition, set up his teammates, and cleaned the glass. Small forward Jabari Parker, the only player in the recruiting class ranked ahead of Randle by ESPN and Rivals, might be the better prospect but it would be difficult to imagine Parkers more versatile.
Parker, who Sports Illustrated has tabbed as the best prep prospect since LeBron James, is not playing in the Peach Jam. Hes taking the summer off with a foot injury. Randle, the second-ranked prospect, has done his best to usurp the top spot in the class.
Randle certainly had the attention of North Carolina coach Roy Williams and N.C. States Mark Gottfried, who watched Randle dismantle the overmatched Wisconsin team on Thursday. Duke assistant Jeff Capel, Kentucky coach John Calipari and Floridas Billy Donovan also got an eyeful of the big Texan who defies basketball convention.
Honestly, Im just a basketball player, Randle said. So let me be me. I have a unique skill set and I can do a lot of different things.
All three teams in the Triangle are vying to bring Randle, and his unique skills, to the ACC. Randle has UNC, Duke and N.C. State on his list, along with three Texas schools, Kentucky, Kansas and three other schools.
Like the best players from the class of 2012, who waited for all the dust to settle after the NCAA tournament and McDonalds All-American Game, Randle said he will take his time in making his decision.
That hasnt stopped Matt Jones, who has committed to Duke, and is Randles teammate on the Titans, from recruiting him to the Blue Devils. Jones, a 6-4 shooting guard from DeSoto, Texas, and the 19th-ranked prospect in the class, said it ultimately will be Randles decision.
He let me be me when I made the decision, so Im going to let him be him and get away from it because I know a lot of people will be hassling him over it, Jones said. I dont want to be another person in his ear.
Randle said his decision will come down to the coach he can trust. He said he wanted a coach whos going to push me, and not cater to me, but push me to be the best player that I can be.
There appears to be no limit on how good Randle could be. His game is a mix of a lot of players, from versatile forward like Draymond Green to a traditional power forward like Chris Webber.
Scott Pospichal, Randles coach, was at a loss for a comparison to Randle. The only player he came up with was Julius Randle.
I dont know of anyone, Pospichal said. I dont know who else out here looks like him, acts like him.
The big left-hander showed the usual summer-circuit ability to dunk and run the floor but he also showed an ability to create contact and get to the free-throw line. Once there, he showed a soft shooting touch, making 10 of his 13 attempts in Thursdays first game.
In just a brief glimpse of his immense talent, he grabbed the rebound, dribbled the ball up the court, spun around one smaller defender, then dribbled behind his back and past a second defender before he stopped in the middle of the lane.
He drew a post defender in and dished the ball off under the basket to a teammate for an easy basket. It was a great play for a point guard, except Randles not even a guard, and he bristles at the forward label.
I dont want to be just on the blocks, Randle said. I just want to be my own type of player.
And thats the kind of player who has the potential change the landscape of the ACC.