Randolph and Tucker reunite to relive their high school glory days

PHOENIX — Suns forwards Shavlik Randolph and P.J. Tucker are in the spotlight of playing with each other in basketball arenas packed with thousands of people, a very reminiscent scene to their high school days. Yes, spotlight, packed basketball arenas and high school go together in the case of the two current teammates.

Randolph and Tucker grew up playing in the North Carolina hotbed of high school basketball. The two went to rival high schools, each filled with tradition, and both were highly-touted recruits — Randolph was considered the top prospect in the 2002 class.

But their journey together starts earlier than that.

The two were teammates at Daniels Middle School in Raleigh. Randolph, a year older than Tucker, developed a friendship with Tucker that lasted throughout their high school rivalry and is still going today. Randolph’s recollection of Tucker as a youngster is pretty similar to how we would describe him today.

“He actually was a 7th grader when I was an 8th grader, and I had been on the team for a year,” Randolph said. “He was just this hungry little kid going at me every day at practice, wanting to go 1-on-1, talking trash. He didn’t play a lot that year, but he made everyone’s life miserable in practice.”

Being the young little guy, Tucker looked up to the bigger Randolph, who already had the spotlight of being an up and coming NBA prospect.

“Shav (Randolph) was the man,” Tucker said.  “He was the biggest player in high school. People were talking about him already then.”

“I was a 6th grader and was playing 5th quarter for the kids not so good. Every game I played 5th quarter, and I looked up to him. When we got to high school it was different because I got better, so we were both the best players in our classes, so our high schools were rivals and we had big clashes.”

Big clashes may even be an understatement.

Randolph attended Broughton High School, which is home to former NBA legend Pistol Pete Maravich. The lanky 6-foot-10 forward has the majority of the school’s scoring records, including points in a single game. He passed Maravich’s 47-point record with a 50-point outburst. It is an honor that Randolph called humbling at the time and still is today.

“I don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as him,” Randolph said. “I know I’m not worthy to be mentioned in same breath, but for one night and a couple years in high school, I was able to take some of his records down.”

Performances like that only added to the legend of Randolph, who was recruited by every school in the nation.

He has crazy recruiting stories to prove it. From Billy Donovan flying to his high school just to wave ‘hello’ from the parking lot, to Michael Jordan taking and then sending a picture of himself wearing Randolph’s jersey, asking him to play for North Carolina, Randolph saw it all.

Randolph routinely played in overflowing gyms that caused his team to eventually move their games to bigger arenas. One game even attracted more than 12,000 people.

Down the road, Tucker had his own thing going at William G. Enloe High School, also located in Raleigh. Tucker was a highly sought after recruit himself. He became the first high school player in the state of North Carolina to grab 30 rebounds in a game, something that he did again a few nights later. He also won the state’s Player of the Year award as a junior, an award some guy named Chris Paul took from him his senior year.

The high profiles of Randolph and Tucker only added to the rivalry of their schools, which was described as being at the same level of the Duke and North Carolina rivalry in college basketball.

Randolph’s memory of a particular matchup can be applied for most of the games.

“There was one game before they started moving our games to bigger arenas, people hanging from the windows, standing room only and the game was coming down to the wire,” Randolph said. “P.J. and I weren’t guarding each other, but by the end of the game we were just going at it. He is so strong I always hated playing against him, I could never post up on him because of how strong he is.”

Tucker said he and Randolph would average over 30 points a game played in front of everyone that was anybody.

“When we played each other, it would be the who’s who of coaches at every game that we played at — it was crazy,” Tucker said.

Tucker and Randolph took different paths once graduating high school.

It was long assumed that Randolph would play for Herb Sendek at N.C. State, where his grandfather has his jersey retired in the rafters. Late in the recruiting process, he surprised a lot of people by deciding to play for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. The lure of playing for one of the greatest coaches in college basketball was too much to pass up.

Randolph played three years at Duke before deciding to go professional. He went undrafted and never found a long-term role in the NBA, bouncing around a few teams. He last played overseas in China before signing with the Suns.

Tucker went on to star at Texas for three years before he entered the draft and was selected in the second round. After brief stint with Toronto his rookie year, Tucker spent many years abroad before finding a role with the Suns last year thanks to fellow Texas alum, former Suns general manager Lance Blanks.

With Randolph having signed as a free agent last week, he and Tucker are now reunited for the first time since those epic days in high school.

As for who won the majority of those games:

“I will let him tell you who won the battles,” Randolph said of Tucker with a wide grin.

“OK, yeah, he won his fair share,” Tucker gloomily responded.

Tags: Broughton Duke Phoenix Suns Pj Tucker Shavlik Randolph Texas William G. Enloe

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Great to see a guy like Randolph stick with the Suns, he suffered a awful dislocated ankle when he played for Portland a few years ago, its amazing to see him come back from something like that

  • DZ

    Almost the entire team is a come back story in some way.

    Tucker’s and Randolph’s stories are obvious. Green has bounced around and almost everyone here was wondering if he would even make the team before the season started. Plumlee was considered a throw-in in the trade for Scola. No one (including me) thought Ish Smith had a chance of making the team. Frye has come back from a life threatening heart condition. Even Dragic is a retread since the Suns traded him away but were lucky enough that Houston didn’t realize how good he was and let him return to Phoenix.

    Just think how good Houston would be this year with Dragic playing point for them.

    All this – and more – is what has made this team special. No matter what, this team will always be one of my favorite Suns teams.

  • TI

    Good for you DZ!

  • EBJM

    Nice story Mr. Sanders!

  • http://grantland.com/features/the-marc-gasol-all-stars/ Suns Fan in Portland

    Nice to see some props for Dragic over at Grantland’s “most watchable players in the league” column. Some people here may be perturbed to see Frye make the list as well, however ha ha. They actually make a decent argument for Channing. I tend to agree with what they say, though it describes him when he’s at his best… and that’s where he’s always frustrated me; that he’s shown flashes that he can defend and play in the post, it just doesn’t happen very often…

    Click my name above for the link or here’s the url:

  • CART jeff

    Great story. Go Suns!

  • http://s DBreezy

    So Bledsoe could be back as early as Sunday, but no later than Wednesday. Wednesday at home vs. CLE would be good to me, but I hope they don’t do it any earlier than Clips game. Why play him in a back to back right away on the road vs two Pacific division playoff foes? I’m sure he doesn’t want to miss that Clipper game, so it may be hard to keep him off the court for that one. What a stretch of pg’s for Goran and eventually Bledsoe to go up against starting tonight: Westbrook, Curry, CP3, Irving, Rondo, with Lowry, DWill, Jennings, Rubio, Wall mixed in as well later on. Should be good to watch.

  • John

    Phoenix Suns vs. OKC

    Key matchup: PJT vs. PJ3

    Try as the Suns may, but Durantula is gonna get his in scoring. Westbrook is an X Factor and IBlocka is a dominant force inside that usually poses problems for inside/Frye. If PJT can prevent PJ3 from getting out on the fast break or from scoring in the post, it may very well go the Suns way…

  • EBJM

    Suns fan in Portland, basically they are giving Frye’s presence on offense a lot of credit for Dragic’s success.

    They don’t mention the fact that his lack of rebounding, lack of a low-post game and generally porous defense is the sole source keeping Phoenix around the 8th playoff spot instead of being contenders.

    I think if a PF like LaMarcus Aldridge played with Dragic he would be just as successful and Phoenix would be contenders.

    They also listed Frye with the 2nd unit which everyone here has agreed that is where Frye belongs.

    If Dragic had remained in Houston he would be playing just as well if not better with Howard and Terrance Jones up front.

    Frye is being acknowledged based on Dragic’s fantastic season, not the other way around.

  • http://grantland.com/features/the-marc-gasol-all-stars/ Suns Fan in Portland

    Yes for sure. Frye has that great shot, but it’s Goran’s pick and roll orchestration and penetration that makes it happen. Remember how good Nash used to make Channing look? I’ve seen the difference first hand, in that I saw a lot of Frye in NY then here in Portland before he came to the Suns. When he came to the Suns, the three pointers went to his head and now that’s all he focuses on. What frustrates me is that I’ve seen flashes from Frye over the years that showed he could play some really solid post defense and block some shots, but it only comes along 2 or 3 times a year.

    Goran is starting to be able to make players look much better than they are, a lot like Nash used to… Last summer I was salivating at the idea of LaMarcus coming to the Suns. LA and Goran would be an awesome pick & roll, but then the Blazers had to go and get good…

  • SHAV

    I’m sure PJ remembers the WHOS YOUR DADDY chants. SHAV was his daddy

  • BCrayZ

    Fact is that Frye &

  • BCrayZ

    Fact is that Frye & Gogi have an insane pick & roll.

    They lead the NBA by far with a 1.3 points per pick & roll play.

    If this were really all Gogi making Frye look good, then why does Gogi not get results even close, when teamed with any other pick & roll partner on the Suns? On another topic, too bad Barbosa broke his hand. Now he is out for the rest of the year.

    MUST get LB well for playoff time. Let’s go SUNS!!!!