Connor’s Corner: Julius Randle


Writer’s Note: This article was written as recently as the New York Knicks’ Sunday night road game against the Boston Celtics. 

Hello and welcome back to the eighth edition of Connor’s Corner, where I discuss a standout performance in professional sports and that player’s journey from high school to the professional level. Following an exciting week of NBA action, one player in particular has been balling out, hitting game-winning shots and giving his squad a solid case for being a top contender in the Eastern Conference: New York Knicks power forward Julius Randle. 

The New York Knicks have been playing their best in years, boasting a nine-game win streak, and find themselves ranked No. 5 in the Eastern Conference. Despite these wins, this team has had to dig deep as of late, including a nail-biting two-point win over the Heat and a double overtime win in Boston. In both of these marquee matchups, Randle played the hero. In Friday night’s contest, Randle shot 16-26 from the field, including eight 3-pointers, en route to 43 points and nine boards. While these numbers alone are impressive enough, the real highlight for the 6-foot-8 forward came on his team’s last possession. New York was trailing by one, with under 10 seconds at midcourt. Randle caught a pass and attempted to dribble. However, a defender miraculously knocked the ball out. Randle regained possession, but he was double-teamed with less than four ticks left, so he had no choice but to put up a 3-point prayer — and it was answered, as he hit the game-winning shot with a second left — ultimately ending Miami’s hopes of beating the bogeymen of the Eastern Conference. 

Two days later, the Knicks  played Boston for the second time in under a week, hoping to keep the fourth-best winning streak in the association alive. While the Dallas native had no game-winning shots, he carried his weight. Randle shot 11/22 from the field and snagged nine boards en route to scoring 31 points for his squad. Randle’s highlight of the night came in the third quarter. While facing down a double team, Randle’s step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer gave his squad the one-point advantage heading into the final quarter. Randle also hit two free throws with less than a minute left in OT to give Spike Lee’s squad a one-point advantage. However, that wasn’t good enough, as the Celtics retook the lead, and Immanuel Quickley forced double OT on an 11-foot floater . Randle went scoreless in double OT, as Quickley scored all 10 points for New York and finished off the struggling Celtics. 

Previous to coming to the ‘Mecca of Basketball’, the Eastern Conference Player of the Week had a four-year stint with the Lakers, where his performance was average, having amassed a little less than 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. After this, Randle inked a one-year deal with New Orleans and had his best year to date, averaging 21 points per game and shooting over 50 percent from the field on average. That season undoubtedly saved Randle’s career, as he was touted as a solid starter for any franchise. Randle signed a three-year deal with New York worth $62.1 million, much to the chagrin of some Knicks fans as New York failed to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. After his first season, many fans were up in arms as New York failed to make the playoffs for a seventh straight season. 

However, the following season was Randle’s best year. In fact, many believe Randle was snubbed for MVP as he averaged 24 points, six assists and 10 boards a game, even leading  his squad to a date against the Atlanta Hawks. Despite his fantastic season, Randle struggled in the postseason, shooting under 30% from the field and averaging less than 20 points a game. Because of this, New York lost the series, and Randle faced a media onslaught for his disappointing performance. The following season seemed to be the same story. Randle struggled to mount anything on offense, so New York finished 37-45, missing the playoffs again. However, this season has been his best one yet. With the acquisition of Jalen Brunson, Randle hasn’t had to score every time out, and the Knicks have become a legitimate threat to whomever they play. This season, the forward is averaging 25 points and just over 10 rebounds per game, both career highs. 

Previous to becoming an NBA star, Randle attended Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. The Texas native was arguably the top recruit in the country, and his high school mixtape got him on people’s radar, which showed him bullying defenders, making passes like a point guard, moving like a track star and making shots from way downtown. Randle was a McDonald’s All-American in 2013, yet he wasn’t supposed to have been, as he fractured his right foot missing much of his senior year. Despite this, he returned for the final five games and led Prestonwood to their second state championship in a row. This attracted the attention of SEC powerhouse Kentucky, where he committed to. 

Randle’s college career was nothing short of excellent. He averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, and a little under two assists per game. Randle brought the Wildcats to the National Championship Game but fell short to the UConn Huskies. Randle chose to forgo his three years of eligibility and declared for the NBA draft, where the Lakers took him seventh overall. 

Randle has had his share of highs and lows. This season has been the best one in his young career, and he is out looking for revenge over the previous ones. If Randle keeps playing the way he has been, there is no doubt he can bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the Big Apple and cement himself as one of the stars of today’s game. 

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