Warriors' Randolph trying to fit in
Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In the middle of a rookie season far different than he envisioned, Anthony Randolph received a most welcome pick-me-up Tuesday.
The weather was brutally cold and the rain freezing, but here were his family and friends, some of whom he hadn't seen since the summer.
All of them understand the frustrations he has endured this season, sitting on an NBA bench, trying to quell teenage tendencies in a world of professional athletes.
"I'm going to tell you this right here," said Pat Washington, his high school coach. "When he goes out and works hard and tries hard and he's doing the right things and people tell him he's not, that bothers him.
"But Anthony is misunderstood and always has been misunderstood. There were always people who were supposed to be better than him, and he's always had to prove himself. Sometimes, his competitiveness may get the best of him because he just doesn't know how to quit."
Randolph's parents, Anthony and Crystal, were both cooks in the military. He was born in Germany, grew up in Southern California while his father was stationed in Saudi Arabia, moved to Arkansas for high school and, when that didn't work, to Dallas.
A natural athlete, he tried a little of everything: T-ball, baseball, football, soccer, basketball - even karate - and basketball was hardly Randolph's favorite sport.
"I hated it," he said, "because everyone wanted me to play because I was tall."
His wiry frame comes from his parents - his father is 6-foot-6, his mother 6-2 - and might have been the biggest factor in placing the chip that still rests on the shoulder of his 6-10 body.
As the tallest and skinniest kid growing up, he was teased constantly, his mother said, and he sometimes needed a special desk to sit in at school.
He was not a particularly good student, and became worse when he finally took to playing basketball as a ninth-grader.
So twice, Crystal Randolph pulled her son off his basketball team. The first time, she made Randolph deliver the news to his coach after a game he had just played.
The next year, after the family had moved to Arkansas, he met the same fate just before a big tournament in Florida. His coach came to their house and pleaded for the return of his player.
The answer was no.
"I think that's what kind of woke him up to get serious," she said.
Problems in Arkansas led Randolph to Dallas, where he lived will his uncle Will Marsaw and played for two years at Woodrow Wilson High School.
Randolph's grades improved with the help of his guidance counselor, Alene Mathis, and so did his basketball skills.
Washington recalls Randolph spending four hours in the gym, four days a week, working on his game in the summers. Tony Johnson, who coached Randolph on the Dallas Mustangs' AAU basketball team, adds that Randolph took the game more seriously than any of his other players.
Both see Randolph, who played only one year at LSU before jumping to the NBA, as someone who works hard and wants to please his coaches.
And yet, they have heard first-hand about his up-and-down rookie season, and about his tough-go at gaining the favor of his coaches and older teammates.
They realize his confidence can be taken as cockiness, his postdunk laser eyes as a sign of disrespect.
"I see that on TV all the time and I call him and tell him he needs to stop, that he's a professional now," Johnson said. "But he doesn't even know he's doing it. That's just him wanting to be good."
Crystal Randolph is the first to admit her son needs to do some growing up. He's also 19 years old, away from his tight-knit family and learning how to be a professional basketball player.
So she preaches patience and faith, and when she finally sees Randolph in a Warriors uniform tonight at American Airlines Center, she will be ecstatic.
"He's wanted this for so long, and for it to actually happen, I just smile," she said. "I told him, even if you sit on the bench the whole game, I don't care. You're there.
"Of course, he didn't want to hear that. He wants to play."
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