NORTH AUGUSTA — Julius Randle was sitting on the bench, eyes cast down, shaking his head, when a child approached and handed him a folded piece of paper.
Even in defeat, Randle stands out. Even in defeat, fans want autographs.
Randle, who’s playing for the Texas Titans at the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam, scored 31 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and played all 32 minutes in a 74-65 loss to Howard Pulley in a Friday morning game.
The 6-foot-9 post player is ranked No. 2 in the 2013 class but could move up to No. 1; top prospect Jabari Parker isn’t playing in the Peach Jam because of an injury.
But Randle isn’t caught up on numbers.
“I really don’t pay attention to them,” he said about the rankings. “If I’m No. 1, I’m No. 1. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be ready for the next level.”
For the Howard Pulley game, big-name coaches such as North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Kansas’ Bill Self were sitting on the college coaches’ side of the gym.
It didn’t take long for Randle to show his strength, speed and jumping ability. On one first-half sequence, Randle twice grabbed an offensive rebound before he finished with an and-1. He also wasn’t shy handling the ball, as he started some offensive possessions – including a few breaks – by dribbling down the court and attacking the rim. And when Randle missed – he shot 11 for 25 – he often came down with the rebound.
With another year of high school to go, Randle said he isn’t set on his collegiate destination. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State make up just some of the offered group.
But first he wants to help his team win at the Peach Jam.
“I hate to lose,” Randle said. “I’m a competitor and I hate to lose. Whenever I lose … it’s just tough.”