Purple Reign sat down with Randle, a 6-2 guard from Rock Island, Ill., after his Illinois Wolves played their first game in this weekend's Hoop City Classic in Kansas City.The game was fine – Randle scored 18 and the Wolves notched a 68-53 win. But according to Randle, things could have gone even better if not for the 8 a.m. start time. That's just a bit too early to play ball.
"No, I'm not used to it," Randle, a 2011 recruit, said with a smile after the game. "I'm not used to playing this early in the morning. Most of our games are in the afternoon, so it was different. But we came out with the win, so I'm happy with that."So for the record: 8 a.m. is too close to dawn for Randle's liking. There is another kind of early, though, that the four-star recruit doesn't mind. And that's the one that matters for Northwestern.
With Randle playing in-state, the Wildcats were early with a scholarship offer. And that's something schools that hop on board now won't be able to say."It does (matter that NU offered early)," said the Rock Island High School product. "You know, loyalty – I'm a very loyal person. And (Northwestern) showed interest a little bit earlier than a school down the road."
Word has long since been out about Randle in Big Ten Country; his AAU coach, Mike Mullins, called him "a priority recruit for the vast majority of the Big Ten." Yet nothing will change the fact that Northwestern was one of the first schools to come with an offer."I'm going to look into that before I make my decision," Randle said. "They got the chance to come out and see me early, and they offered early, so that's what I like about it."
But don't be stunned if schools from around the country start offer, especially after Randle's gold medal-winning performance with the U16 USA National Team in Argentina this summer.Florida, Florida State and Wake Forest have reportedly all shown interest, and with games like the one Randle played Thursday morning – groggy or no – he is bound to attract more and more attention.
It was still the Wildcats, though, who were on board early."I talk with (assistant) coach (Tavaras) Hardy most of the time," Randle said. "They came down to my school a couple of times, so I'd say yeah, they've shown interest….
"I'm taking everybody serious. I'm taking (NU) serious. I don't know when I'm going to make a decision, but yeah, I'm taking them serious."The Hoops City Classic is one of the summer's premier AAU events. Indiana's Tom Crean, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Illinois' Bruce Weber were among those who set up shop in the stands on Thursday. While none of those coaches were watching Randle personally, Illinois and Indiana have already offered, and the event was rife with coaches. Purple Reign is not aware of any Northwestern coaches attending the event.
Asked whether or not having the likes of Pitino and national runner-up Izzo in attendance affects his game, the junior-to-be responded like the AAU vet that he is."It's exciting, but you know, I'm kind of used to it now. I've been playing AAU ball for a long time, so I've grown accustomed to it. But it still is a little bit exciting."
For as seasoned as he is to the big-time spectators, Randle isn't used to those 8 a.m. start times just yet.