Julius Randle was a scoring machine as a sophomore at Prestonwood Christian Academy.
He already was a nationally known recruit by then, and he already had a state championship under his belt.
Randle averaged 25 points a game that sophomore year, but Prestonwood failed in its repeat bid with a loss in the state title game.
When new coach Chris Mayberry arrived at the beginning of Randle’s junior season, he asked the star player to tone down the scoring. Mayberry wanted Randle to excel in other areas and get his teammates more involved.
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“He did everything I asked of him,” Mayberry said. “It was always for the good of the team.”
Randle averaged 21 points a game as a junior, and Prestonwood won another state championship.
That’s Mayberry’s story for critics who are afraid that the Wildcats’ 2013-14 lineup will have too much star power and only one basketball.
“He’s going to do whatever he needs to do,” Mayberry said. “Whatever the coaches want him to do, he’s going to do it and he’s going to fit in great. He’s going to be a pleasure for Coach Calipari to coach.”
Randle’s team-first attitude got even stronger over the summer, when he was part of a USA Basketball under-18 squad that included highly touted players including Marcus Smart, Rodney Purvis and Rasheed Sulaimon — all of whom will be starring in this week’s NCAA Tournament.
Randle was the leading scorer (14.2 points) and rebounder (6.6 boards) on that well-balanced team, which Billy Donovan coached to an undefeated record and a FIBA gold medal.
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward could have brought a big head back to Texas for his senior season, but he didn’t.
“He’s really humble,” Mayberry said. “For all the accolades and people telling him how great he’s going to be — he really has deflected all that stuff and has always concentrated on the team. Every time I’ve asked him to do something, he did a great job of listening. He’s probably as good a teammate as I’ve had, and that’s important since he’s the best player and the one setting the tone.
“Julius has learned to play with good people.”
His senior season didn’t go according to the script. Randle limped off the court during Prestonwood’s second game and was later diagnosed with a broken foot.
The injury was supposed to end his season — and by extension his high school career. But Mayberry said Randle showed up at every practice. He supported his teammates, essentially acting as one of Mayberry’s assistants while wearing a soft cast around his broken foot.
Then, with little notice, he was back on the court for Prestonwood’s final game of the regular season. After that came the playoffs, where Randle averaged 36.3 points, 17.3 rebounds and led his team to a second consecutive state title and its third in four years.
“I’ve never seen him better,” Mayberry said. “He wasn’t the old Julius Randle — he was better. It was amazing.
“I think what people are going to see is what I’ve seen for two years — and that is just that he’s special. There’s not a lot of kids that could have done what he did. The sky’s the limit for how good Julius will be. As long as he stays humble and stays hungry, he’s really, really going to be something special.”