Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Julius Randle set to make college decision but focused on leading Prestonwood Christian to TAPPS state championship
In about three weeks Prestonwood Christian senior Julius Randle will be announcing his college choice -- likely to be a live ESPNU national broadcast with Bill Self, John Calipari, Rick Barnes, Billy Donovan, Lon Kruger and Mark Gottfried watching with breath held.
But this week, the 6-9 Randle has been practicing in PCA’s Student Fitness Center getting ready for the TAPPS boys state basketball tournament.
PCA meets John Paul II at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mansfield Timberview in a 5A state semifinal at Mansfield Timberview. Rated the No. 2 player nationally by Rivals.com, Randle returned for Prestonwood’s final home game from an early-season foot injury. Despite a 13-19 record built by PCA largely without Randle and highly rated sophomore Mickey Mitchell (knee), Prestonwood is now the favorite to repeat as TAPPS state champion.
“Everything is different with Julius back,” John Paul II coach Jacob Anderson said. “They’ve ended our season the last two years at TAPPS state. Our kids know their kids. I think we’ve been ready to play since Monday.”
John Paul II (28-6) has two victories this season over PCA but not against Randle. A strong senior nucleus with 6-6 Jackson Forbes and captains Robert Bannister, Chandler Malone and Jason Martin have built hopes for an elusive state title in the 7-year-old program.
Randle has been a difference maker since his freshman season. It’s not been uncommon to see easily recognizable college coaches at Prestonwood’s campus or at games. In April, Randle was selected to play on 2013 USA Junior National Select Team that will compete in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore.
Randle has narrowed his choices to Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina State, Florida and Oklahoma. Each of his recruiting visits were highly chronicled by media covering each school’s program. Randle blogs about his visits with USA Today and his last visit at a Kansas victory over Texas ended with Randle having dinner at Self’s house Sunday.
He’s planning to announce his final decision after the TAPPS state tourney and a two-week break in Prestonwood classes.
Randle and Prestonwood coach Chris Mayberry said there’s a possibility for a national news conference with Randle, who has 19,650 Twitter followers. Still Randle gives no clues about the final choice in mid-March -- probably just a few days before the NCAA basketball tournament begins.
“(The decision) is for me and those close to me to know,” said Randle with a smile.
Randle is an athletic power forward who can run in transition with the fastest of breaks. After he’d missed three months, Randle returned with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 15 minutes in the regular-season finale against Bishop Lynch.
Randle believes his shooting touch and vision have mostly returned to full strength but he’s still working on conditioning to get more explosiveness back into his legs. Randle says there’s no pain in his foot and watching him practice shows nothing but energy and enthusiasm to be back on court.
“If you watch him, you’d think he is 100 percent,” Mayberry said. “But if you know him, you know he’s still got more in him.”
In a girls’ 5A semifinal, it’s another matchup between Prestonwood and John Paul II, coached by first-year coach Mike Martin, who led Sudan to UIL Class 1A state girls championships in 1994 and 1995. Martin is well-known around the state. His wife, Kit Kyle, is Timberview’s girls basketball coach.
In the other 4A girls semifinal, Argyle Liberty Christian returns to the state tournament with four freshman starters including the younger sisters (Rebekah and Hannah) of Whitney Hand, a who went on to a standout career at Oklahoma.