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Top 2013 recruits: Randle's focus, work ethic should take him far

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Second of a four-part series.

Julius Randle -- Power forward
Height: 6-feet-8 Weight: 235 lbs. High school: Prestonwood Christian (Texas) AAU team: Texas Titans

Why he's No. 1: Really difficult to defend because of his size and skill set; has good touch around the rim and can also go off the dribble; great rebounder.
Why he's not No. 1: Sometimes spends too much time on the perimeter instead of down low; can improve his jumper.
What kind of pro: Will be extremely productive because of his aggressive nature and ability to score and rebound in traffic. Works hard, too.
Comparison: Chris Webber.
Recruiting: Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Baylor, SMU, North Carolina State

  

He described Jabari Parker as a terrific talent and polite and humble young man who will someday make an impact in the NBA. So don't get it twisted. Scott Pospichal loves CBSSports.com's top-rated player from the Class of 2013, and he doesn't think there's anything crazy about ranking Parker first nationally.

But should it really be the consensus it appears to be?

"I don't know how you get that," Pospichal said, and this is probably a decent time to mention that he coaches the Texas Titans, headlined by fellow Class of 2013 standout Julius Randle. "Julius is more physical, bigger, longer, tougher and meaner [than Parker]. He's just ... better."

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There's no question that Randle is bigger (he's 235 pounds) and longer (he's 6-feet-8) and his relentlessness on the court would lead most to describe him as more physical, tougher and meaner, too. Whether he's actually better, though, is another issue and something that's up for debate.

But it is up for debate.

That's the point Pospichal was trying to make.

Yes, he thinks Parker is really, really good. But he thinks his guy -- a star at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas -- is really good, too, and among those in agreement are a man with two national championship rings, namely Florida's Billy Donovan, who last month coached Randle to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 tournament. Randle averaged a team-best 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in the event. He got 18 points and 12 boards in the title game, after which Donovan said, "I've never seen a guy his size that quick and athletic off the bounce."

"I talked to a college basketball coach who used to coach in the NBA, and he told me that if Julius was in [last month's'] draft he would've been the third pick behind the big kid [Anthony Davis] and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist," Pospichal said. "He might've just been saying that to me. But that's what he said."

Those words -- in addition to Donovan's words -- are the types of accolades Randle said he's after more than a certain spot in various rankings. He would take the No. 1 label, sure, and a Sports Illustrated cover like the one Parker got would also be nice. But Randle insisted he has never pursued those things and swore he won't start now.

"I'm just chasing being the best player on the court whenever I step on the court," Randle said. "That's my mindset. Ranking services and stuff like that, there's a lot of stuff that goes into that. So honestly and truly, it's not important to me. I just want to prepare for the next level."

The next level is, of course, college, and it should come as no surprise that Randle already has offers from nearly every top program. Texas, Baylor and SMU lead the way in the state, and Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State and North Carolina State are pushing from the outside. Randle said he'll take his five official visits this fall, then gather himself and make a "business decision, because I'm planning for my future."

Either way, that future will include basketball and millions of dollars.

That's a safe bet at this point, because Randle has the size, strength, athleticism and work ethic to essentially guarantee his spot in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. There is no such thing as a can't-miss prospect in this sport, I guess, given how injuries and other things can derail a career. But Randle is undeniably on the right path -- the rare elite prospect whose focus and desire match his natural ability.

"Julius is the hardest-working kid; he works out all the time," Pospichal said. "He's very clear about who he is and where he's going. He doesn't get sidetracked. He's not gonna go to a movie instead of work out. He's not gonna go to a party instead of work out. He knows who he is and where he's going. He wants to be a professional basketball player."

And he will be exactly that.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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