By Gary Parrish
AKRON, Ohio -- And the star of the night session at the Adidas Invitational was ... Z-Bo, of course.
"Mr. Randolph, I am from Canada and I don't get to be around people like you often," said a high school prospect who approached Zach Randolph at a gym late Wednesday. "Can I take a picture with you?"
"Sure," Randolph answered.
And what followed was a stream of high school prospects anxious to meet the Memphis Grizzlies star who had stopped by a high school in suburban Indianapolis -- which is near Randolph's offseason home -- to visit with his college coach, Michigan State's Tom Izzo. I can't promise you the prospects on the floor noticed Randolph's presence, but I can tell you everybody else in the buidling did, and Randolph would've been overwhelmed for hours if tournament officials hadn't stepped in and demanded the autograph seekers get out of the "coaches area" of the gym. Either way, it was a neat reunion between player and coach -- one of the highlights of my first full day on the road with Izzo as this July evaluation period continues.
If you're keeping track, I think Izzo and I watched nine games in seven gyms on Wednesday. We met in the lobby of our Indianapolis hotel at 7:30 a.m. Our first game was at 8:15 a.m. Our final game ended around 10:15 p.m. We boarded a private plane around 10:50 p.m. We landed here in Akron a little before midnight. We checked into this downtown hotel around 12:30 a.m.
So that's a 17-hour day, and it was draining. But the truth is that Izzo and I were the lucky ones beacause we had access to a private plane that at least allowed us to get from the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis to the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron late last night. Most coaches making the same trip were also in a gym until around 10:15. They couldn't have gotten back into their rooms until around 11, couldn't have fallen asleep until around midnight. And yet they still had wakeup calls for around 3:45 a.m. because the only commercial flight leaving Indianapolis that could get coaches to Akron by the start of today's workouts was scheduled to leave at 5:24 a.m.
That's the flight Illinois coach Bruce Weber was supposed to be on this morning, by the way. But don't ever say Big Ten coaches don't take care of each other, because Izzo invited Weber to fly privately with us rather than put himself through that ridiculousness. That both men were on the redeye from Las Vegas to Orlando with Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser the day before Prosser died four years in the middle of a grueling schedule probably should be noted.
"Thanks for letting me go with you," Weber said as we touched down in Akron.
"No problem," Izzo said. "No problem."
For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.