Prince Seeking King's Throne

Levi Leland Randolph. An aristocratic ambiance is trumpeted with pronunciation. Last season's performance merits the royal hierarchy befitting a prince.

Levi Randolph is the most recent signee for Coach Anthony Grant's Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball program. Randolph was honored as the Alabama Sports Writers Association 6A Player of the Year, Alabama High School Athletic Association State Tournament MVP, and Super Five All-State member. He proved worthy of noble designation after leading Bob Jones High School of Madison to the Alabama 6A championship.

Formerly of the AAU Nashville Celtics, he finished with the nationally ranked Alabama Challenge coached by Robert Shannon. The National Letter of Intent signature penned by Randolph for the 2011-12 season presents an opportunity for a stately coronation.

The five-star rated 6-5, 185-pound shooting guard learned the game under the guidance of his dad, Levi, Sr. "When he was about two or three we started doing things in the driveway and in the yard," the father said. "I played junior college basketball so I've always been fond of the game. When I would go out to play pickup ball or recreation ball I would take him with me. At two and three years old he was in the gym dribbling and passing the ball. He's been playing all his life." The elder Randolph, 6-2, was a shooting guard for Bob Shuttlesworth at Calhoun Community College. Born in Decatur, he played at Cortland High School.

"My dad made me who I am today," said Randolph. His destiny may have been foreshadowed with the first word he uttered as a child, "ball."

"Growing up I liked Allen Iverson," Randolph said. "I liked his cross-over and that is why I have the braids too." The diminutive guard's decline caused a switch of allegiance to Carmelo Anthony.

Randolph loves the game of basketball. Performing in a jam-packed gymnasium is exhilarating for the angular crowd pleaser. His apprenticeship is serious. "I live basketball," he said. "My strengths are my mid-range game - getting past the first defender and pulling up on the second defender." Scorers typically are deficient defenders. Guarding in space tops the developmental agenda. "I need to slide my feet. My on-the-ball defense needs to get better," he acknowledged.

Two facets of his game received special attention. "One of the things I noticed just watching basketball and playing basketball is kids don't shoot the ball enough. We spent a lot of time on the release and a lot of time on his mid-range game," said the elder Randolph. He accepted a part-time job at a recreation center when Levi was six years old allowing extra practice time for his son. "We spent a whole summer working on his mid-range game and not letting him shoot outside. He cried the whole summer and wanted to know why did we have to keep doing this. So now I think its paying off for him and he realizes why we did it. I think it worked out well," he explained. The concentrated workouts began after eighth grade. All the mechanics and techniques were thoroughly critiqued and reviewed. A daily regiment of 150 attempts around the basket bolstered his mid-range proficiency while refining his form and soft touch.

Pursuit of a top-ranked prospect can be an overwhelming experience but adolescent counseling prepared Randolph. "We've instilled in Levi early on about being able to make decisions in his life and the consequences behind those choices. It was not a burden to me because they were recruiting him. Levi is very personable." Mr. Randolph was partial to the Capstone and developed affection for the head coach during the process. "I'm a little bit biased because I'm an Alabama fan so the whole experience to me was great. Growing up in the area where I did, you know tons of guys who went to Alabama and played there. I like Coach Grant. Most of all I like his demeanor. He's a very quiet guy but he still gets his point across. His demeanor is real confident and when he talks to Levi it looks like he's sincere."

The son concurred with Dad, praising the head coach. "I like Coach Grant. He's a good guy. He cares a lot about his team and his family." Nearing the end of his freshman year, Randolph received his first recruiting letter and offer from then Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. "Alabama is nice. I like the campus and I like the gym. I like everything," said Randolph. He was impressed with the Paul W. Bryant Academic Center too. "I want to go to a school that will make me better on and off the court and where I can get a good education." Academic elites Stanford and Vanderbilt reviewed his transcripts with an approving eye.

Anthony Grant was a frequent visitor to the north Alabama high school coveting the versatile point producer according to Bob Jones HS Head Coach Danny Petty. "I really like Anthony Grant. I think he's a class individual. I think he's going to turn Alabama basketball around. They are headed in the right direction," Petty stated. "He's got to recruit the type kids that he wants for his system."

He believes in his star. "Levi has come a long way with his leadership and overall game. He has the best mid-range game in the state. It's unbelievable. He can shoot the three and finish at the basket," said the 2010 AHSAA 6A Coach-of-the-Year. "He can jump and he is athletic. His passing has gotten so much better. He is our team leader." The mounting accolades have not led to complacency. "He is working real hard right now. You always wonder if kids are satisfied with where they are but he's handling it really well. He is still one of the hardest workers on our team," raved Petty. "Guys get open because he draws so much attention with double-teams. No one guy is going to stop him. For his size it's amazing the way he handles the ball." Petty believes the multi-skilled Randolph is suited for the shooting guard position but can be an asset at the point and wing if required.

Randolph expressed a preference at the next level. "I want to play the one and the two in college. I can play on the wing. I can bring the ball up the court," stated the deft ball-handler. All those skills were showcased during the spring game. Randolph's silky gait is deceptive allowing him to glide by aggressive defenders. His ambidextrous dexterity in the lane created havoc with opponents as the lanky right-hander delivered with either hand. "He is so smooth on the floor. It may not look like he is moving that quick but he's got all the moves," professed Petty. His repertoire is laced with a myriad of acrobatic scoring finishes. Athleticism allows him to soar above the rim to retrieve an errant shot caroming off the glass and with two hands authoritatively slam the ball through the goal. Back door alley-oops are an option opponents must contest when the quiet assassin is roaming near the baseline.

Approaching mid-court, Randolph split through the double-team attempt with an uncanny behind the back dribble astonishing the crowd. The ensuing no-look pass led to an uncontested layup. Superb dividend paying drives to the goal produced a consciousness of his penchant for penetration. The next trip down the court he is held at bay five feet beyond the three-point line. A lullaby inducing dribble soothes the defensive vigilance before Randolph hoisted a high-arching trey barely tickling the twine. Half-court is the established offensive demarcation line but speaking to the confident shot-maker there is a sense he would discard the parameter. "Sometimes coach (Petty) says I shoot from too far. Whenever I feel like I'm open I shoot it," he calmly professes.

"Off the court people should know I'm kind of goofy. I'm a silly guy," he confessed. "Levi's got a great attitude. His personality with the younger players is just really good. He likes to have fun. He laughs and cuts up a little bit. He is a unique individual," Petty said. The multi-faceted personality has another dimension coaches and fans will admire. "My overall impression of Levi not being his Dad is he is a very serious young man who is goal-driven. I think he is a great kid," chimed Levi, Sr.

Randolph will eternally be hailed as the inaugural native son committing to Anthony Grant at the state's flagship institution. The pledge is vital to a program proclaiming the resurrection fortunes reliance on luring in-state talent. "I'm not someone who cares about scoring a lot of points. I just want to win and be a winner," declared Randolph. A selfless attitude will be welcomed by the Alabama faithful yearning for the crowning ceremony of an individual to reign over a kingdom flush with SEC Championships and perennial NCAA appearances. College is a period of life ripe for maturing. Achievement is a precursor to any regal transformation of a prince to a king. "All my family calls me "LeLe"," said Randolph clarifying the nickname pronounced Lee Lee derived from his first and middle names, Levi Leland. The crimson and white subjects flocking to the Tuscaloosa palace known as Coleman Coliseum would love to witness the ascension to the throne and anoint him with another moniker, king.

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