There's an easy explanation for why Anthony Randolph, the Warriors' 18-year-old selection in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft, has had such a hard time adding heft to his 6-foot-10, 197-pound frame.
It's because he hasn't stopped growing yet.
"They tell me I'm not done," Randolph said of his doctors. "Another inch or two."
By tabbing Randolph with the 14th overall selection, the Warriors are betting his game is not finished maturing as well.
"I think there is a time where you have to be a little patient and let that develop," Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin said. "A lot of things have come easy for him. That'll change, but I think he'll make the right adjustments."
Randolph has already made the biggest adjustment of all. Born in Germany on July 15, 1989 while his parents, Anthony Sr. and Chrystal, were stationed overseas with the U.S. military, Randolph grew up primarily in Pasadena with football as his first love.
But the budding wide receiver's genes had other ideas; Anthony Sr. is 6-4, Chrystal is 6 feet, and the younger Anthony "can't remember a time when I wasn't the tallest kid in my class." Finally, after eighth grade, Randolph began to take up basketball in a serious fashion.
'New York' type of player
Pat Washington, boys basketball coach at Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas, thought he might have a player when Randolph, dressed in street clothes and fresh off a Southwest Airlines flight from his previous home of Little Rock, Ark., dropped seven of 10 3-point shots on his first visit to the Wildcats' gym.
Those suspicions were confirmed when Randolph made his debut for Woodrow (as it's known in Dallas) in the fall of his junior year. Randolph, then 6-71/2, was spearheading a 1-2-2 press when an opposing player tried to throw a pass over his head.
"From a standstill, he jumps straight up, steals the ball, takes one dribble, takes two long steps and dunks it," Washington said. "The referee, he'd never seen anything like it. He said the kid was traveling. But we looked at the tape later. He didn't."
Randolph's lean build made him stand out on a Dallas hoop scene where many players, according to Washington, imitate their football counterparts and build up bulging musculature, sometimes at the expense of fluid movement. Randolph, on the other hand, "was that New York-type of basketball player," as Washington put it: long and lean, with quicksilver reactions and the ability to handle the ball.
"His junior year, I reined him in and he averaged about 18 points," Washington said. "His senior year, I let him go."
Randolph ended up averaging 25.8 points and 12.6 rebounds in his final year at Woodrow, numbers that not only drew college recruiters in droves but also made him realize that he could actually fulfill the dream of millions of school-age players.
"People said I could possibly be an NBA player," Randolph said. "I was happy they thought that much of me, but I needed to keep on working."
Rising to a challenge
Randolph was one of a record nine freshmen selected in the first round of this year's draft, but said he would have stayed in Baton Rogue if the Tigers had removed the interim tag from coach Butch Pierre. Pierre took over from John Brady in February and led LSU to a 5-5 finish, but eventually lost out on the job to former Stanford coach Trent Johnson.
LSU finished up 13-18, which didn't help Randolph's draft stock — the thinking apparently being, "How can a team with a first-round NBA prospect be this bad?" And reports of a lackadaisical attitude in NBA workouts also went down against him.
But Mullin said Randolph clearly outplayed Rider senior Jason Thompson and Kansas junior Darrell Arthur when the team had all three players work out for them last weekend. And Washington can still remember how Randolph would rise to a challenge, such as when the Wildcats faced a team from San Antonio's Cornerstone Christian led by Connecticut-bound swingman Nate Miles.
Miles torched Woodrow in the teams' first meeting, firing 3-pointers from all over the gym in a barrage that prompted Washington to tell his team in the postgame locker room: "I think I've just seen the best high school player in Texas."
Randolph's ears perked up at that, and when the teams met again later on in the season, he put up huge numbers — "32 points, 15 rebounds, eight or nine blocks and seven or eight jaw-dropping dunks," as Washington describes it — in a Woodrow victory.
"You still think he's the best player in Texas?" was all Randolph said to Washington at game's end.
Another Lamar Odom?
Warrior fans instantly connected Randolph to Brandan Wright, another skinny, left-handed forward prospect whom Golden State acquired in last year's draft. And around Dallas, Randolph was often measured against a similarly built native son, Toronto Raptors power forward Chris Bosh.
Asked to project his own game in five years' time, however, and Randolph comes up with someone just as comfortable on the perimeter as in the paint.
"It's good to be compared to an All-Star," Randolph said. "I can see why people think that, but I think along the lines of a Lamar Odom-type."
Odom was one of the players — others included Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Rasheed Wallace — whose games Randolph plundered as a kid, adding moves that worked for him.
Although Randolph played primarily on the interior for LSU — he took only 19 3-point shots in 31 games, making two — he said he has the range to make treys in the NBA, which is a necessary component for playing small forward, as the Warriors envision. He has shown a more consistent 15-foot jump shot than Wright had at this point in his NBA career.
"It wasn't a need for me to shoot 3s," Randolph said. "I took pride in my midrange jumper. It's kind of a lost art."
One of Randolph's strongest suits is his ability to rebound and ignite a fastbreak on his own, gobbling up the court with his long steps before the opposition can react and get organized. But he needs to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.41 from last season.
"I think his decision-making got better," Washington said. "It's easy to make good decisions against inferior opponents. At the beginning of the year, I saw him make some bad decisions. At the end of the year, he was making better passes."
Over his last 14 games with the Tigers, Randolph scored an average of 17.8 points on 45.6 percent shooting and grabbed 9.1 rebounds per game, all numbers that outshone his first-half production. That included a career-high 29 points in a win against an Alabama team that included power forward Richard Hendrix, who was also selected by the Warriors on Thursday.
"He's a long, athletic player who's able to do a lot of things on the outside," Hendrix said of Randolph. "You could definitely see his growth as the season went on."
That's just what the Warriors want to hear.
Contact Geoff Lepper at firstname.lastname@example.org.