Reflections On A Local Star
My First Encounter
I think it's accurate to say that Shavlik Randolph's first blip on the national radar occurred at the 1999 Charlie Weber Invitational while playing for the Raleigh Heat. The truth is NC State was the first school to really invest a significant amount of time in him. On one Saturday in September, I caught a glimpse of State assistants Sean Miller and Larry Harrison standing at Court No. 1 in the Armory on Maryland's campus. I wondered what was so important to them that each was standing on opposites sides of a court watching a 16-year old game at The Weber. It took about 30 seconds to figure out their intentions. Randolph was on display and they were the only coaches in attendance, and quite happy to be there.
With Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Duhon, Jason Williams, Reggie Love, Steve Wojciechowski and Herb Sendek in the crowd, Randolph went to work. The opponent was Leesville Road, Broughton's big-time rival. Over 3,000 onlookers packed Broughton's Holliday Gymnasium. One entrepreneurial student was selling T-Shirts and I think it was the first "Shav Country" item I had seen. Anyway, Randolph hit for 34 points (13-21 FGs, 2-3 3-pointers), grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 2 shots as Broughton defeated Leesville, 76-72. Broughton would go on to lose to Leesville in their last regular season meeting and again in the state semifinals.
Randolph Bests Jordan
At last year's Networks banquet in Raleigh, the unthinkable happened. In a silent auction, an autographed Michael Jordan basketball commanded $300 on the open market. Not bad, but it wasn't the signature item of the night. A basketball bearing the signature of "Shavlik Randolph, 42" was the big-ticket item that night. It went off for $500, a cool 200 bills better than the basketball signed by the greatest player that ever lived. Amazing.
On a weekday in Raleigh, with at least one ACC game on television, Broughton and Leesville tangled again. However, schools at both programs realized that Leesville wasn't a big enough venue for this one. So, they moved the game to Reynolds Coliseum and 12,000 people promptly packed the gym to see the rematch. The main street feeding into NC State's campus couldn't handle the unexpected traffic and some fans sat in their car for an hour hoping to get a ticket. Once they reached the gym, they found a ticket line extending from the gym to the parking deck. For some reason, my pass wasn't where it needed to be and my admission to the game looked sketchy until I had to bolt past an unsuspecting security guard just to get in. No way I was missing that one. Leesville prevailed as opposing student sections exchanged barbs the whole night. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I think I saw Shavlik autograph a cheerleader's stomach that night. OK, I might be exaggerating a little, but he signed a lot of autographs that night.
Bolting The Battier Retirement Early
I attended the Duke-Wake Forest game last year when Shane Battier's jersey was retired prior to the game. Randolph and his father also made the game. But, they didn't stay as long as I did. At halftime, Shav and Kenny got up and were headed for the exit. They stopped to say goodbye and wondered just where they could be headed. "We have a game tomorrow," was the gist of what Randolph said. "I've got to get some shots up." Sure enough, the two were headed back to the gym so Randolph could get a light workout in before the following day's game. Being a history buff, I figured this whole Battier jersey retirement thing was a big deal and it was. Apparently, Shavlik did too, but only half as much as me.
Randolph The Stoic
Matt Doherty's first season at North Carolina began with a midnight practice last year. You know who was there and the Tar Heel fans were sure to let him know just how much they wanted him to be a part of their program in Chapel Hill. While guys like Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams felt extremely comfortable strolling around the track at a North Carolina football game like conquering war heroes, Randolph isn't Allen Iverson when it comes to acknowledging a crowd. The somewhat reserved big fella, while honored to see the interest in him, could barely get off a wave when he walked to his seat for the start of the festivities. It was nothing personal, he just isn't the type to throw his arms into the air and motion for people to stand up and cheer. At most of the ACC games he attended since his sophomore season, and there have been a ton of them, he took in each contest fairly expressionless, almost stoic. Truth be told, he's probably the career leader in unofficial visits to ACC schools.
Shav Meets Sin City
Las Vegas, America's acknowledged City of Sin. Not for Randolph. In July at the Big Time, Mike DeCourcy and I were walking into the Hard Rock Café and out comes Shavlik, teammate William Kane and a group of buddies. Randolph, dressed as he usually is, in shorts and a T-shirt, provided some the contrast. A deeply religious young man, he was walking out of the Hard Rock as we passed. He said hello, and we couldn't help but notice his T-shirt: "Victory in Jesus."
Years from now, we'll still be hearing the story of Billy Donovan and "The Wave." Last year, Donovan, a noted relentless recruiter, flew to Raleigh just so he could let Randolph know he was interested. It was the first day of the open evaluation period during Randolph's junior year and Donovan wanted Randolph to see him before any other coach so he used an evaluation on him just to wave. Gainesville to Raleigh in plane just for a wave! … How about Michael Jordan wearing a "Shav Country" T-shirt? Are you kidding me? Anybody who can get that done has a future in the recruiting business. …
Hundreds of articles have been written about Randolph. However the June 7, 2001 article by Gregg Doyel of the Charlotte News and Observer stands out in my mind as the top one. Doyel infiltrated the Randolph household and did a great job of presenting facts that previously had been unreported. He talked about the first time Shavlik dunked to the first time he was on the Internet. He talked to everyone around the young man, including his personal instructor Mike Hollis who said: "Working with Shav is like tinkering with a Lamborghini, and he's like that kid in the front of the class. If the teacher says read the first two chapters, that sucker went and read the whole book."
Did You Know?
Pete Maravich, one of the all-time greats, attended Broughton High School in Raleigh. … Duke was Randolph's lone official visit. … Unlike most high school kids, Randolph delayed, delayed and delayed learning how to drive a car and get his driver's license. … Shav's mother gets nervously easily and rarely attends her son's games, opting rather to receive reports from her husband following the games. … Shavlik's grandfather, Ronnie, has his jersey No. 84 hanging in the rafters at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. He is NC State's all-time leader in rebounding and his 16.8 rebound average for his career is still the best in school history. … NC State offered Randolph a scholarship shortly after the 1999 Charlie Weber. They were the first school to make scholarship overtures. … Randolph's father estimates that his son made anywhere from 6-9 unofficial visits each to Duke, NC State and North Carolina. He made a pair to Florida. …