August 23, 2012

Q&A with Julius Randle's high school coach

Everyone in the world wants to know where Julius Randle will be playing his college basketball. The five-star power forward from Plano (Tex.) Prestonwood Christian Academy has been heralded as one of the future superstars of the sport since the middle school; holding a top three ranking in the 2013 Rivals150 since rankings for his class were first introduced.

The general consensus among recruiting analysts is that Randle is strongly considering becoming a member of the 2013 Kentucky recruiting class. So with that possibility in mind, Cats Illustrated spoke on the phone with Prestonwood Christian Academy head basketball coach Chris Mayberry to discuss some non-recruiting related things about Randle. Here's an excerpt of our conversation.

Cats Illustrated: With a player like Julius Randle the talent level is unquestioned, we both agreed that what will determine his future success is his work ethic. How is Julius' approach to the game, what is his work ethic like; and, what is your relationship with him in that aspect of his development?

Coach Mayberry: Next year will be my second season at Prestonwood. He has a great work ethic and it's really improved since I've gotten here in my opinion. He's a gym rat type guy; he's shooting on the gun, working on his ballhandling, shooting free throws. Last year about half way through the season he asked me to work with him after practice to do extra conditioning. He's not afraid of work and that's why he's improved so quickly. As far as a great player he probably has some of the best dedication I've seen. A lot of good players are good when the lights are on, but he's good all the time.

Cats Illustrated:So those are the things that Julius is working on to improve, but what about his game makes him so dominant right now at the high school level?

Coach Mayberry:His physical abilities take over, he's just so much stronger then guys that he plays against. As much as he works at it you can't deny that he has a lot of God given physical gifts that simply cannot be taught. He's built those abilities and made it even harder to defend them by working on his all-around game. At the high school level there's times when we play him as a 6-foot-9 guard.

Cats Illustrated:We talked about his work ethic and what makes him dominant right now, it's no secret that down the road Julius wants to be able to play more on the perimeter offensively. He's known for being able to take physically inferior players out on the wing and attacking them. Do you think that is something that will work for him long term at the next levels of play? Is he always going to be a strict power forward?

Coach Mayberry:I don't know if I'd classify him as any one position to be honest. The way he shows off those skills in AAU is by handling the ball on the perimeter but he doesn't shoot the ball from there very often, if ever. That's something that I encourage him to do here at Prestonwood. He actually shows more versatility in high school I believe. I think that it is something that will translate because he handles the ball like a guard.

Cats Illustrated:Aside from being a great basketball player, what is Julius' role on the team as a leader? Is he a vocal guy? Is he a great competitor? One thing that we constantly hear is that he doesn't run into many kids in the state that can match him talent wise, but he still goes out and dominates. Is that the type of mindset that he carries with him? Speak to that a little.

Coach Mayberry:Julius doesn't talk a ton but he goes out and does whatever he needs to do. If I tell him one game that I need him to lock someone down or get every rebound he's going to do it, he's always focused on the all-around game and what it will take to win. Definitely a highly competitive guy that likes challenge, it's surprisingly easy to keep him motivated against some players that simply can't stack up to him. My first year here (last season) he had a great year playing against all types of levels of competition.

Cats Illustrated:As one of the top guys in the country he's been hyped heavily since middle school. How does Julius handle that pressure and stay so consistent in the face on constant scrutiny?

Coach Mayberry:I think that a lot of what helped him last year was that he shut down a lot of the phone calls. He stayed away from the distractions by telling the coaches that he was very interested in their school, but that he wasn't going to be on the phone a lot because there were other priorities for his junior year. He's focused on the task at hand rather then where he is going to be a year from now, or two years from now. I think that is a mature move and is going to help him avoid distractions.

Cats Illustrated:What motivates Julius to be successful? Is it the love of the game, does he want to be one of the all-time greats or is there a personal motivation there?

Coach Mayberry:The biggest thing that he brings up when we've had talks is that he wants to be the best player he can be. What motivates him is not be like any other player, but to be the first Julius Randle. Going out there every day and working hard is his game plan and he motivates himself. So many people are looking at his game with a microscope and at this point a lot of that is negative since everyone has seen the positives so many times, but he stays positive through that.

Cats Illustrated:You said that he wants to be the first Julius Randle, and comparisons among players are always difficult, but is there a former or current player that he reminds you of? If not, what about Julius makes him so unique?

Coach Mayberry:His power makes him unique, but in the last year he's become a great passer out of double and triple teams. He's making better decisions and playing less like a bully; because in high school they officiate him tightly. I think you'll see a combination of a lot of players this year. It's so tough to compare him to anyone, and obviously I've heard them all. But to me, he's unique in so many ways because his perimeter game is more mature then a lot of guys he gets compared to. But with the way he eats out rebounds all over the court he usually gets compared to more traditional post guys. To be honest I think he has pieces of four or five great players."

Note: For the record, our comparison is Chris Bosh mixed with Amare Stoudemire

Cats Illustrated:At the college level the game changes so much with the amount of different basketball concepts and matchup possibilities. With some guys now having a chance to counter his physicality, how smooth do you think his transition to the next level will be? How quickly is Julius able to grasp some of the more advanced basketball concepts?

Coach Mayberry:Even against bigger guys he's so physically gifted that he'll be able to transition to college more easily then a lot of guys do I believe. He's going to be counted on wherever right away, and he's ready for that. An advantage that he has is that he's played in such a variety of high level events and he's been through so many tests. The work won't be the issue; it'll just be meshing with his new teammates and finding his spot in the system. There will be road bumps like with all freshmen, but I believe he has a huge leg up on some of the competition.

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