Jerome Randle - Basketball - PlayersVoice
Jerome Randle - Basketball - PlayersVoice

Basketball

When an NBA dream is stolen

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When an NBA dream is stolen

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What if?

 

What if I’d known more? If I’d had a better manager? If I’d taken that opportunity to get picked in the NBA draft when I had it?

 

But I didn’t get to make that decision. It was all out of my hands.

 

I was just a small-time kid from the south side of Chicago who’d never made it out of there except for basketball. I had no idea about business. I didn’t know nothin’.

 

That window has shut on me now. I know I’m never going to play in the NBA. I’m 30 years old. It ate away at me for five or six years while I thought it still might happen, but I started coming to terms with it about three years ago.

 

I can’t say I’ve fully gotten over it. I probably never will. But at least I can live with it.

 

I still think about it today when I watch the NBA. I boycott the games until the playoffs because it’s just too hard to look at it all the time.

 

I know guys from the NBA because I played against them in college and when I talk to them they say, ‘Man, you should be in the NBA.’

 

It gets to you because if someone like that knows, then it’s like, damn, why didn’t anyone else see it.

 

 

 

STEALING AN NBA DREAM

Draft night in 2010 was the worst time for me.

 

I had some people represent me who I felt were good people. I was told the Houston Rockets were going to take me in the second round. That would’ve been great for me because they only had one point guard contracted at the time.

 

But my management turned down the pick. I didn’t know that was going to happen. I didn’t even know it could happen. They felt it was better to be undrafted and look at other ways of getting into the NBA, like the summer leagues, than to go in the second round.

 

My agency didn’t call me. They let the guy who was handling me at the time make the decision. I didn’t find out until afterwards.

 

Someone should have called me and asked me what I thought. They should have explained it to me, but I was out of the loop.

 

 

Aaron Brooks was the point guard at the Rockets that season and he eventually got hurt. The guy who came in for him played a lot of games. That could’ve been me.

 

I played for a couple of NBA teams in the summer leagues, but when you’re a 5’9″ point guard people get this idea that you’re not tall enough. My height wasn’t a problem to me. It didn’t stop me from doing everything I wanted to do on the court. But I can’t control what other people think.

 

That window has shut on me now. I know I’m never going to play in the NBA. I’m 30 years old. It ate away at me for five or six years while I thought it still might happen, but I started coming to terms with it about three years ago.

 

I got a chance with Dallas Mavericks in pre-season and played really well. I had 20 points in one game against OKC. But I felt like I was caught in a numbers game. They had a lot of point guards and let me go. They were fair to me with their decision. I was happy they gave me an opportunity.

 

The thing is, I could’ve already been in the NBA had my management not turned down that pick. Everything in life is about timing, man. Right place, right time, right decision. You only get one shot at something like the NBA draft.

 

I got the chance to tell the people who were responsible what I thought of them. Did they fess up to making a mistake? Absolutely not. They had an excuse ready. Everybody’s got an excuse if you mess up and you’re not prepared to take responsibility for it.

 

I fired that agency because I was pissed.

 

 

 

‘WHERE’S MY MONEY, MAN?’

After that, it was more me thinking about helping my family back home in Chicago and taking care of myself and not being stuck in the D-League. Maybe I got lost in trying to do all of that and the opportunity to push for the NBA never came around again.

 

My family wasn’t poor, but growing up we had some struggles and I didn’t want my mother and brothers and sisters to have to deal with problems if I could help with money.

 

I went to play in Europe, but it was really difficult. I thought playing as a professional would mean teams and organisations would be professional, but it’s not like that. They weren’t professional, so I was upset.

 

I’d be playing in a country like Turkey and not getting paid. Two or three months go by and I don’t get a cheque. I was angry. Practising twice a day, working hard and no money coming in. That’s frustrating. Knowing I was good enough to play in the NBA just made it worse.

 

The thing is, I could’ve already been in the NBA had my management not turned down that pick. Everything in life is about timing, man. Right place, right time, right decision. You only get one shot at something like the NBA draft.

 

I wasn’t the guy who was going to be quiet about it. They didn’t know my situation and what I needed to do to help back home and I felt it was really disrespectful for people not to pay me. I didn’t go in there cursing anyone about it, but they didn’t like me asking.

 

‘I’m here, I’m working hard. Like, where’s my money, man?’

 

You know what I’m saying? This is my eighth professional season and I’d say it has happened four years out of the eight.

 

It cost me a lot of money and my frustrations would come out on-court. I didn’t play well at times and my attitude wasn’t right. People would say, ‘Look at this guy, why is he upset?’, but they didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes.

 

You should never judge a player by how he goes about his business on the basketball court. Everyone’s different. Some players are quiet, some might seem angry, some are trash-talkers. But some people mistake passion for anger, and confidence for arrogance.

 

Basketball is all about emotion and people are going to show it in different ways. You can’t judge what a person is like off the court from that. You have no idea. It’s ridiculous to even try. But that’s what some people are like. They like to judge and I’ve been a victim of that.

 

 

REPLAYS AT 2AM

People who talk to me and know me love my personality and the things I do for people, but some others judge me negatively and I can’t control that. That’s their problem, not mine.

 

I’ve even had people swear I’ve done things on the court that I just didn’t do.

 

Last year, when I was at the Adelaide 36ers, a scout who was out here told me, ‘You’re a better player than this player on this NBA team, but the reason why this player is in the NBA is he’s such a good dude, a good locker-room person.’

 

He said in the game we’d just played, I’d passed the ball to Nathan Sobey and when he missed the shot, I dropped my head. You know, bad body language. So I’m thinking, ‘Damn, Jerome, you’ve got to check yourself, you can’t be reacting like that, no-one’s perfect, everyone misses shots.’

 

I needed to see exactly what I did, so after I got home I was up until two in the morning watching the game and when it got to that play I never put my head down. I clapped it up and gave Sobey a pat on the behind and said, ‘That’s OK, you’ll hit the next one.’

 

I watched it about 20 times over to make sure. I was so mad at myself and I had no reason to be. But that’s what people do, they put labels on you and they stick and they can affect your chances in life. Labels – too short, too this, too that – hurt my chances of making the NBA.

 

 

 

WHAT AUSTRALIA MEANS TO ME

Adelaide was the place that helped me to love basketball again because I was able to be myself, be Jerome Randle and feel like a kid again and just have fun. Those two years were the best two years I’ve had since I left college.

 

That team had the other parts and just needed me to be creative. I was able to do anything I wanted to do on the offensive end. Those guys filled in the spots for the wild, crazy things I did on the basketball court and it worked to our advantage. I won the league MVP and the fan MVP.

 

I didn’t want to leave Adelaide. I loved the fans and my teammates and I still have relationships with them. I thought we were going to become another Perth Wildcats. That club is so good at keeping people together. But things just happened and it felt like maybe the club wanted to go another way.

 

Adelaide was the place that helped me to love basketball again because I was able to be myself, be Jerome Randle and feel like a kid again and just have fun. Those two years were the best two years I’ve had since I left college.

 

I’m just starting to learn how it works at the Sydney Kings. I don’t know what my future is like here, but I love the organisation. Everyone seems cool. I have a contract with a team option for next season, so they can take it up if they want to.

 

I didn’t know Andrew Gaze personally before I came here, but I knew he was the most famous athlete in Australia when it came to basketball. He’s so passionate about the game and wants his guys to do well.

 

I know he has many nights when he doesn’t sleep. I can tell. That happens when you love the game so much and you’re trying to make something work, so I give him a lot of credit, man, to be able to deal with that.

 

I think he’s getting better as time goes on. He’s learning from his mistakes the same as players have to learn. We’ve given away a lot of games this year, but sometimes you have to go through the bad times to get to where you want to be.

 

We do some dumb shit on the court and that happens. It’s frustrating, but it’s a learning curve for all of us. We’ve just got to be smarter and try harder. It takes a lot rebuilding, a lot of talking, a lot of teaching.

 

 

 

MY TRUE CALLING

Maybe my calling was not to be in the NBA. Maybe my calling was to showcase my talents all over the world and help other kids try to avoid the sort of things that happened to me. I’ve got a lot of experience and I pass it on wherever I can.

 

I like the situation I’m in right now. I’m playing basketball, I’m happy, I’m making money and I have a beautiful wife, Zhordan. I’ve known her for 12 years. We met in high school and we’ve been married for four years.

 

Zhordan has been tremendous. She’s travelled everywhere with me and been my greatest supporter. She takes a lot of pressure off me. I don’t have to deal with anything off the court, I can just play basketball. She’s that breath of fresh air in my life.

 

She runs my Handle Randle clinics, looks after my fan page and keeps me organised. The clinics were huge in Adelaide. I want to make them big in Sydney and right across Australia if I can.

 

I love it when kids look up to me. It makes me proud. I’m looking forward to the day when Zhordan and I start our own family. I’ve tried to be the best husband I can be and, when the time comes, I’ll try to be the best father.

 

Jerome Randle  -  Contributor

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