By Joe Henricksen
The City/Suburban Hoops Report came oh so close to doing the unthinkable: putting a 5-5 point guard at the top of the rankings in the Class of 2012. Oh, OK, we'll give him 5-6. But that's how much the Hoops Report values Whitney Young's Derrick Randolph, a little tough-minded, hard-nosed, put-his-foot-on-your-throat point guard who plays with Ferrari on the AAU circuit.
In the end, when the Hoops Report's updated Class of 2012 rankings do come out, Champaign Central's Jay Simpson, a Purdue commitment, will be No. 1, followed by Randolph in the No. 2 spot when it comes to college prospects in the junior-to-be class. When was the last time the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the class were separated by 14 inches? You can't help but factor that in the equation when looking at the top two prospects.
Randolph is tiny but strong. No one will take the basketball away from him. He will run a team in the halfcourt and can also push the tempo with speed from end to end while staying in control. He will hound you and make you change directions defensively for 94 feet. He has a heart the size of Texas and a toughness and confidence that permeates through to his teammates. Where he has made his biggest leap is with his perimeter shot. He will hit the pull-up, mid-range jumper, which he does a great job of using rather than getting too deep in the lane, and has added range out to the three-point line. In a 39-point win over the Mac Irvin Fire 16s this past weekend at the Spiece Run-n-Slam in Fort Wayne, Randolph drained six three-pointers.
When you appreciate Randolph the most, however, is at the end of the game. He is one you can guarantee left it all on the floor. You don't have to worry about whether he will bring it every day. A prime example came Saturday morning in pool play. In the closing minute of a 9:30 a.m. game that was already decided with Ferrari holding a comfortable lead, the opposing team, nonetheless, attempted to roll the ball up the floor while the clock was stopped. Randolph immediately raced up, dove on the floor to grab possession and called a timeout. This is at 9:30 a.m. in an AAU tournament when many players were yawning and others sleepwalking.
When it comes to little guards, the Hoops Report has never been too big of a fan as far as playing at the high-major level. The tiny ones have to be special. Maurice Acker, the former Hillcrest point guard, and Hales Franciscan's Jerome Randle, who starred at Cal, come to mind. I remember 5-7 Rashon Burno out of St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City. He came in the same recruiting class as Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons and Lance Williams in the late 1990s and started 68 games at point guard for DePaul. Randolph is a more potent version of Burno, who ran a team and defended the heck out of you but was very limited offensively. Randolph has those special characteristics.
Now he's looking to show them off.
"I waited my turn," says Randolph, who is poised to take over the point guard duties at Whitney Young. "Listening is the key to success. I have listened to my coaches and those around me, and I feel I'm ready to do the things that are expected of me. I just want to be a leader. I want to make my teammates better."
And as far as the negatives and questions he hears about his height disadvantage?
"My heart makes up for my height," Randolph says matter-of-factly. "Hearing that is certainly a motivation for me. Don't tell me I'm too small."
The Hoops Report won't. Nor should college coaches.
Class of 2012
The Hoops Report's updated Class of 2012 rankings will be out shortly, but here is a sneak peak at the top 10.
1. Jay Simpson, 6-8, PF, Champaign Central
2. Derrick Randolph, 5-6, PG, Chicago Whitney Young
3. Aaron Simpson, 5-10, 2G, North Chicago
4. Charles Harris, 6-4, 2G/WF, Lake Forest (Academy)
5. Bobo Drummond, 5-10, PG, Peoria (Central)
6. Tim Williams, 6-7, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor
7. Jerron Wilbut, 6-2, 2G, Downers Grove (South)
8. Steve Taylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago Simeon
9. C.J. Jones, 6-0, 2G, Chicago (Orr)
10. Keith Carter, 6-0, PG, Maywood (Proviso East)
A recap of what the Hoops Report took in this past weekend at the Spiece Run-N-Slam Tournament will follow later this week.