By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
MERCER COUNTY —
Kyle Randall can only hope the arc of his professional athletic career approaches that of Russell Wilson.
When Wilson enrolled at the University of Wisconsin after graduating from North Carolina State University, he had a year of NCAA athletic eligibility remaining. Parlaying that into a stellar season in which his draft stock rose, Wilson blossomed into one of the NFL’s brightest young stars during his rookie season of 2012.
Randall’s road is trending toward a similar path, possibly in the National Basketball Association.
Recently, Randall became part of a 15-man roster for the Sacramento Kings’ Las Vegas Summer League entry. He leaves for Las Vegas July 8 for a 4-day camp before the teams play an abbreviated schedule.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely exciting. I’ve been working hard for this since my high school days,” Randall related.
After graduating from Kennedy Catholic High with a then-Mercer County career record 2,022 points, Randall matriculated at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. After earning his degree in 3 years, however, Randall regarded a change in scenary might boost his basketball abilities. So he “ ... started the recruiting process all over again, talking to coaches and giving them my basketball resumé.”
He chose Central Michigan University to commence work on a graduate degree while continuing his collegiate cage career. While the youthful Chippewas checked in with an 11-19 ledger in 2012-13, Randall recorded a Mid-American Conference-leading 18.3 points per game.
“That proved pretty beneficial to this journey that I’m now on,” Randall recently related via telephone. “Going into the season I met with the head coach, Keno Davis, and he told me he was confident in the fact I could score if had to. He told me, ‘Your role will be to do whatever the team needs.’ But he gave me a lot of freedom.”
Often, Randall’s four other starting teammates were freshmen, but he utilized that as a learning experience for them and leadership enhancement for himself.
“The (CMU) coaching staff loved me and trusted me, being a senior and having played Division I ball for three years,” the 21-year-old Randall related. “A senior and four freshmen, it’s kind’ve unheard of, but I had to be the leader for all of those young guys ... being a mentor to those guys.”
The year at Central Michigan afforded Randall the opportunity to work on his mid- and long-range shooting. He connected on 42 percent of his floor shots, 39 percent of his 3-point attempts, and converted 85 percent of his free-throw tries.
Randall had been working out in Phoenix, then Las Vegas, before being notified he’ll suit up for Sacramento assistant coach Chris Jent. One of his summertime teammates is slated to be Kansas University product Ben McLemore, the No. 7 selection in the recent NBA draft.
“It’s definitely exciting,” the normally reserved Randall admitted. “I’m thankful to God that He’s blessed me with this opportunity. But,” Randall emphasized, “I’m gonna have to work hard. Nothing’s set in stone, except that I’m on a summer league roster. That doesn’t mean much in terms of an NBA contract. I have to perform, do well.”
But Randall regards this as an audition not only for the Sacramento Kings, but every other NBA organization’s general manager.
“I’ve been told all the driving and slashing I usually do, that won’t come as often,” the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Randall related. “These players are a lot bigger, stronger, faster. ... Being able to knock open jump shots down consistently is what a lot of teams are looking for.
“This platform’s bigger; most GM’s will be out there watching,” he added.
The Las Vegas Summer League schedule includes 3 games, which a new format will use to seed a tournament that begins July 17, in which every team is guaranteed another 2 games (visit NBA.com, for more information).
“Hopefully, I’ll make enough noise to get on ESPN or ESPN2 and get on somebody’s highlight reel,” remarked Randall, one of three basketball-playing sons of Craig and Karla Randall (brother Lance played at Thiel College, while younger brother Craig is a high school junior in Medina, Ohio).
However, his eyes wide open, Randall realizes this will be a whole different level of basketball.
“Everybody up there is the best of the best, the best wherever they come from, the top athletes in the country. Quicker, taller, faster, stronger,” Randall assessed, noting, “There’s a transition from high school to college, but going from college to the pro level is an even greater transition. Everything there is all about reacting; you only have a split-second to choose what to do.
“But I’m working on it,” continued Randall regarding his resolve. “I’ve been weight-training to improve my quickness, strength, vertical leap, while also trying to be ready to withstand the pounding. ... The summer’s been good for me. I’ve been working really hard and I’m seeing the results. I think I’ll be ready to make a contribution, or at least get some looks.”
Hopefully a long look from new Kings’ GM Peter D’Alessandro.
“The NBA is definitely in my sights right now. But if that doesn’t work out I’m definitely open to going to play across the water (Europe) or the ‘D-League’ (NBA Development League). It’s all about building a resumé,” Randall reasoned. “Coming from a small school, it’s not like (the University of Michigan’s) Trey Burke or (Indiana University’s) Cody Zeller. We all take different routes to get to where we want to go.’
The reserved Randall admitted, “I’m always more the business type. I show my excitement a little differently. I’ve got nothing to be jumping for joy about right now, but I have to make the best of it. ... Whatever happens, I’m just trying to get to the NBA somehow.
“Call me back at the end of the month,” a chuckling Randall said. “If I have an NBA contract heading into the regular season ... ”
More seriously, he noted, “I’ve always been one to like challenges. This is just a new one.”