One On One With Julius Randle

Universally identified as one of the top three overall players in the class of 2013, Texas PF Julius Randle will have his choice of schools when he looks to make a decision a year from now. On Wednesday night he spoke with TDD about the early process and more.

TDD: Are you glad the season is finally here, Julius? How is it going so far?

Julius Randle: School is going really well. Classes are going good and the team is working really hard. I had a really great workout today and I'm looking forward to continuing to get better and help my team win and become a better leader.

Are you big on individual workouts?

I love working out. The athletic facilities at our school are just top notch, we've got a huge weight room, the main gym, some practice gyms, it's great because I can always get a workout in most often when I want to.

What got you so serious about a workout routine?

Well, to be honest, I never really worked out all that much in the weight room prior to when I hurt my ankle in the first period of the EYBL. Before that I was just real big on doing skill development workout stuff, one or two dribble pull up, jump shots, and post moves. But after hurting my ankle, my trainer, Jeff Webster, who used to play at Oklahoma, thought it was time for me to get serious with the weight room because up until that point I had just primarily done pushups, that kind of stuff and worked on my game.

Is there a particular source of influence for you when it comes to being so regimented in your workouts?

I'd say it was three people: my coach, my mom and Kobe Bryant.

Like Coach Webster he told me that I need to use basketball and not let basketball use me, and I've just always LOVED the game of basketball, so when I saw how hard my mom has worked to raise me as a single mom and then seeing Kobe and seeing how hard he works, it just motivated me to become the best player I could possibly be.

What have you learned from watching Kobe play?

The big thing is I watched Kobe and he's one of the best players in the world but he always works like he IS the best. If you want to be the best, you have to be willing to put in the time. I knew for myself, I want to be in the NBA one day and I want to be the best player in the NBA, so I knew I needed to watch Kobe and try and exceed what he's doing because it really truly didn't hit me how hard I need to work to be the best until I saw videos of Kobe and how hard he works to prepare.

Do the coaches comment on your desire to improve?

See, I know how this process works when it comes to the recruiting process. I know that I want a coach who is going to push me to be a better player, so some of the coaches will try to say something to you that you know they want you to hear, but I try to focus on developing a relationship with the coaches that I know are going to push me to be a great player and help me fulfill my dreams.

So which coaches, in your mind, are very demanding?

For sure, Coach Williams at North Carolina, Coach K, Coach Calipari, Coach Drew at Baylor, and Coach Matta.

Like with Coach Matta, I remember I had just got back from LeBron and Coach Matta and I were talking and he told me how good I was but how in recruiting it's really hard to find guys that will take the compliment from a coach that you are playing well but who also will take criticism about things that they need to work on with their games.

How do you react to hearing coaches say stuff like that in private to you, if they have a different public persona?

Yeah, you pretty much see that will all the coaches because they have to be media savvy and represent their program to the fans and media. It's part of selling kids to get them to come to their program and play. It's like what I've talked about with coaches like Coach K, Coach Matta and others, once you get to college, it's not a joke. Sure you're going to have a good time because you are playing really good basketball against really good teams, but when it gets down to it, you have to be serious as a player.

What's the most unique recruiting pitch you've heard so far?

I think TCU is by far the most unique. You look at schools like Duke, UNC, Texas, Ohio State, they all have had and continue to have great players, but with TCU, they've told me I could start my own unique legacy at TCU by being the best player that has ever gone there and I could start TCU's rise to the top by going there. It's a cool pitch to hear, that's why I like them because it's so unique.

How do you separate the sales pitch from your idea of the facts about a program?

I think my coaches and my mom really help me with that because they all played in college, so they've heard it all.

You seem very comfortable in the spotlight considering you are so highly ranked by so many media organizations, how do you handle all that comes with being the center of attention?

I think what really helped me was I took the time to not do any interviews after the summer because I really felt like I needed to calm down, write down my own goals for myself and not let other people dictate to me how I was going to handle my own recruiting process.

My parents and coaches have taught me to be guarded when it comes to not letting recruiting attention go to my head. You see it all the time, high school kids who are highly rated as young kids who blow up and then 5 years later, where are they? My personal goals are much more important to me, I want to be known as the best player who ever played this game and being the best player means that I can't be cocky or arrogant and I have to stay myself, which is just a normal kid who wants to be known as a good person who people can look up to.

You and Jabari Parker are widely regarded as the top two players in your class, how much of a relationship is there between you two and do you lean on each other during your recruiting processes?

Yeah, me and Jabari are really good friends. We talk here and there and the thing that's great about our friendship is that we see that the pressure is there for the both of us, but we always encourage each other to stay humble and not let the spotlight shape who we are as people.

Have you and Jabari talked seriously about playing together as has been reported?

It's something we have for sure talked about. Jabari and I play different kind of games that work really well together, but it's not like we're telling schools that you have to recruit the other guy if you are going to recruit me. It would be great to play with Jabari because he's a great player but that's not the sole basis for how we are evaluating making our decisions.

You've mentioned your mom's influence several times already today, can you talk about the impact she's made in your life as a single parent?

Oh man, her raising me on her own, she's always been there for me, she's sacrificed so much so I can chase after my dreams, and to see how hard she works, it motivates me to work even harder. She's never denied me anything even though we have gone through the struggles together. The thing that's really awesome about my mom and my coaches is that because they've been through the recruiting process, they know to use basketball and not let basketball use me.

What do you mean when you say you want to use basketball and not the other way around?

I remember my coach in 5th or 6th grade, the best advice he ever gave me was that you first must have a passion and a true love for basketball and once you have that and you have a platform because your game is recognized as being good, you can then use that for good in your community. I look at guys like LeBron, Dwight Howard and other NBA guys, their brand is known because they are the best players and they also do a lot in their communities and that's something I want to do as well, that's what I mean when I say I want to use basketball and not let it use me.

It's interesting you mentioned branding. In talking with guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Jabari Parker and others, they talk about developing their own brand as high school players. What does "developing your brand" mean to you?

Yeah, that's real interesting you mentioned that because I was just talking about that with my coach the other day. To me, building my brand right now is all about letting people see who I am as a person, which is a person who loves to smile, who can be goofy and who likes to get along with other people. But at the same time, when it's time to get serious, people know that when I'm on the court it's really different from how I am on the court. When I'm on the court, I hate to lose, but more importantly, I love to play the game of basketball and I want my teammates to love playing the game of basketball if they are playing with me.

I've heard you have a diverse range of interests off the court…

Oh yeah, I'm real big on music and there are other things I enjoy doing, that's one of the things I can really relate to when it comes to Dwight Howard. He has things that he enjoys doing but he also works hard on his game. Everybody is their own person, that's something I've learned from watching him.

I've heard you are big into cooking as well, how did that get started?

That got started in the 5th grade, but it wasn't anything big to start. It was pretty much started because if I wanted to eat something good instead of fast food, I had to learn to make my own stuff at the house since my mom was at work a lot. I started out doing breakfast food first, bacon, sausage, eggs, then omelets and other stuff, then it started progressing as I got older.

What's your specialty dish?

I have to give credit to my mom because she made this for me growing up and I got to the point where I wanted to learn to make it myself and put my own spin on it. I love baked chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and homemade wheat bread. It's my favorite meal hands down.

Are you big on following recipes or are you more a creative chef?

I usually piggy back off of recipes being honest, I like to see what other people do with the recipes and then if I feel like changing it, I make a little change in the recipe.

Are you a Food Network guy then?

Not really. The only food show I really watch just because it's really funny to watch is Man vs Food, but that's not a real cooking show, it's just funny to watch that guy Adam eat, there's no way I could come close to being able to eat how much he eats.

Ok, if you could invite anybody to dinner, who would it be?

That's a great question. You know, I think it'd have to be Kobe. That would be real sweet to have a meal with him just because I'm such a huge fan of his.

Ok, let's switch back to basketball, did you watch any of the games for the Tip Off Marathon the other day?

Most definitely. I watched the Kansas vs Kentucky and the Duke game where Coach K made history and got a major win. Both of the games were just really really good, like with Kansas Kentucky, both coaches really good, Kentucky, they've got a lot of great talent again this year and Kansas, Coach Self is just a great coach and he's got his guys playing really hard and they played a great game against Kentucky.

Since you mentioned Kentucky having great talent again, does their habit of bringing in top talent every year appeal to you?

I think you always have some great players who are going to look to link up with other talented guys like what's happened at Kentucky. What I try to evaluate with Kentucky and other schools that I watch is the style of play because all the coaches are indicating to me that I'm going to play all over, so I look at what they do with their guys on the court, and having talent around you is a good thing.

When you say you watch how schools utilize their guys, are you watching for specific things?

The big thing I watch is spacing because when I watched Team USA and NBA teams with guys like LeBron and Carmelo and other bigs, spacing is what really helps them be effective, so I look at how a team runs their fast break, how their players space the court because I've seen how important it is for bigs like me to be able to have room to operate when my team is offense so we can have good team offense.

Who in your estimation runs the best fast breaks out of the schools recruiting you, and do those schools also have the best player spacing in your estimation?

Yes and No. To me, the best schools who run the fast break is Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, I like how all those schools run. But, hands down, Duke has great spacing in their offense. Their guys have room to operate on the court and do different things.

What's your perception of Duke's offense having watched them so far?

First thing is Coach K is simply a great coach. When he coached LeBron and Kobe and Dwight in Team USA, those guys were able to do a lot of things on the court and it made them successful. At Duke, he's had guys like Carlos Boozer who had a lot of success, Coach K just knows how to put his guys in positions to succeed. You don't become the all time winner in college basketball if you aren't the best coach, it's just a real honor for me to be recruited by Duke, that's one of the best programs in the country right there, year after year.

Over the last few years there's been a line of thinking that Duke's bigs aren't utilized as much as other schools. Do you share that belief?

I think everybody has their own opinion, but I have to make the decision that's best for me. I don't really agree with the perception that Duke doesn't utilize their big men because look at what they are doing right now with the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly. Those guys are getting a lot of touches and, especially with Mason, he's having success and doing a lot of things on the court. I don't have any issue at all with how Duke uses their bigs.

You've mentioned NBA Guys and Team USA a lot so far, has Coach K done a lot of talking with you about his experience coaching Team USA?

Oh yeah, he's talked with me about that a lot and there was a lot that I already knew about them from just watching their games on TV, as well as the behind the scenes stuff they did on TV. But, talking with Coach K about Team USA, it's just awesome because he's talked with me a lot about what it was like coaching those great NBA players that I look up to. I mean, he told me stories about Kobe's work ethic that were just amazing to me.

Is Coach K having coached Team USA a big deal in terms of your recruitment?

It's definitely a good thing. I mean, he's coached the best of the best that the NBA has, how could you not pay attention to that?

What were your thoughts on him winning his 903rd game?

Going back to something I said before, you don't become the all time wins leader if you don't know how to coach and get your guys to play together. Duke has shown me that they are a family, and that goes all the way from Coach K down to the assistants to the players, both current and former.

Speaking of assistants, Coach Capel is at Duke now and he was recruiting you hard at Oklahoma before he left. What's the relationship like between you and him now that he's at Duke?

Oh man, it's really great because both Coach Capel and Coach K have told me that I am a big priority for them. Of course I'm really close with Coach Capel since I've known him for so long. He's recruiting me really heavily, and we talk almost every single day.

Duke's not the only ACC school recruiting you hard though, right?

Yeah, UNC has been recruiting me since my freshman year and I have to say, it's a deep honor for me because Coach Williams told me I was the first sophomore he had offered when they usually don't offer guys as sophomores. Coach Williams always calls me when he's allowed to do and we talk through facebook and email and other ways, I've got a great relationship with them, UNC is a great school that I am seriously considering.

What are your thoughts on being recruited by two sides of college hoops' biggest rivalry?

It's a lot of fun to me just knowing how passionate each team's fan bases are for their team, but it's an honor to be recruited by both of them. Coach K and Coach Williams are both are great coaches in their own way.

Ok, let's wrap up…with the recent rule changes regarding recruiting, how are you feeling about the phone call/texting and official visit rules changing? Does that change how you are going to approach your recruitment?

Not really, because I always just usually respond to the coaches when they reach out, so like the texting thing is cool because I enjoy texting, all the changes are really good stuff.

Is there a possibility of taking official visits in the spring or summer next year instead of the fall?

I'm not really sure just yet. More than likely I'll want to wait until the fall/winter to take my 5 official visits. Only thing for sure is I know I want to take all 5 of my visits. That is very important to me.

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