HS players say bring on NBA All-Stars

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
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Julius Randle is a forceful, 6-foot-9, 235-pound slab of man with shoulders as wide as a small compact and Pogo Stick-like jumping ability that allows him to dominate the opposition in so many different ways it’s almost unfair.

Randle
Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSJulius Randle glides past Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams at the Elite 24 Midnight Run.
From a consistent mid-range jump shot to a plethora of effective post moves to picking the defense apart with crisp passes, Randle, a forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), is arguably the toughest player in the country to defend, regardless of class, and yet that’s not the reason he’s dominant enough to be considered the No. 2 junior in the country.

“It’s my mindset, more than anything,” Randle said. “I’m the kind of player that doesn’t think anyone can stop me when I play my game. No one.”

He isn’t kidding, and that blunt bravado isn’t just confined to the high school game.

When asked if he thought he could make a significant impact in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Randle responded with a resounding, “Yes!”

“I just think that I could do my thing in that setting,” Randle said. “I’m not saying I’d be the best player on the court, but I could contribute. I could definitely contribute.”

Don’t be so quick to chalk Randle up as a silly teenager whose confidence is further along than his game, because he’s not the only elite high school player who thinks he’d fare well at the NBA All-Star Game.

Nerlens Noel, a senior center at Tilton (N.H.) who is the top ranked player in the ESPNU 100, said that he’d bypass contributing and dominate in the laid back setting.

“I mean, think about it, they don’t really play a whole lot of defense anyway in the All-Star Game,” Noel said. “They don’t contest dunks or anything. Oh yeah, I think I could get in there and drop a 30-piece on the low.”

Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) point guard Tyler Lewis was a little more practical.

“I think I could create a lot of highlight dunks for my teammates with my passes,” said Lewis, an N.C. State signee. “I definitely think I could produce.”

Call it foolish pride or downright delusional, but the general consensus among high school ballers was that they could be productive players.

Still, as Randle continued to daydream about suiting up with the most elite basketball players on the planet reality began to set in.

“You know I think because I’m in high school they would play harder defense on me,” Randle said. “I don’t think anyone’s gonna want to get scored on by the high school guy. So that would make it a little harder. I think the biggest thing would be that everyone on the court is a great athlete. You can’t get by off that strength or athleticism like you can in high school. You’ve got to have a skill set to be out there.”

Added Shabazz Muhammad: “It would be a huge change to play against that level of talent. NBA All-Stars? That would be tough.”

Still, Rasheed Sulaimon had a valid point.

He and 23 of the top high school players in the country, including Noel, Muhammad and Randle, held their own against NBA stars like Kemba Walker, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Derrick Williams in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Midnight Run in Los Angeles last August.

And, truth be told, the NBA All-Star Game is little more than a glorified pick-up game filled with SportsCenter-esque highlights.

“Playing against the pros at the Elite 24 gave us a taste of what the NBA is like,” said Sulaimon, a Duke signee. “But still, we’re talking about the best players in the entire world. I’m confident, but I’m a realist too.”

And just when a glimmer of reason brightens the otherwise skeptical subject matter, the competitor inside of Sulaimon begins to battle the realist.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think my best chance is to hit a lot of threes. I think I could get about 10 of them.”

The competitor wins.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

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