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Iwate's Randall stays focused on winning

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Scootie Randall of the Eastern Conference-leading Iwate Big Bulls is the subject of this week’s profile.

Position: Forward
Age: 24
Ht: 198 cm
Wt: 102 kg
Hometown: Philadelphia
College: Temple University

Noteworthy: Randall, who can play both guard and forward positions, is the bj-league’s leading scorer (23.6 points per game) through Sunday, when Iwate won its 16th straight game. He’s attempted 10 or more free throws in nine games. . . . While at Communications Technical High School in Philly, Randall became the boys’ varsity team’s all-time leading scorer (1,735 points). As a senior, he was chosen as Pennsylvania’s Class AAA Player of the Year and Philadelphia Public League MVP. . . . Randall attended Temple from 2008-13. . . . In a recent interview, Iwate coach Dai Oketani said, “Scootie is getting mature and ready to rise up as a star player.”

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For starters, would winning the scoring title be goal No. 2 you have for yourself this season behind the Big Bulls’ quest for a title?

To be honest, I don’t think about the scoring title at all. I just go out every night thinking and wondering what can I do to help my team get another win, but winning the championship is my goal of all goals. But to put a stamp on your question, winning the scoring title is not in mind. I just focus on three goals: 1. (winning) the championship; 2. being the best teammate night in and out; 3. doing whatever on either end of the floor to better our team.

In a league with 80-plus foreign players, most of whom played for NCAA Division I schools, how competitive, how challenging, is it going head-to-head with them to be successful game after game?

This league brings a variety of top talent to the court night in and out. For me coming from a top D1 program, I’m a fan of the competition and love to compete, so it’s fun going up against them game after game.

As a second-year pro, which aspect of your game are you focused on improving the most at this stage of your career? Or are you taking a different approach and just working on a game-by-game basis to get better?

As a second-year pro, I think I can improve every aspect of my game dramatically. This stage requires me to stay on top of everything about my game to be the best player I can be.

Which NBA player(s), current or past, would you say your game most resembles, especially in your approach to scoring?

Some of my friends say I play like Joe Johnson from the Nets, some say I play like Lance Stephenson from the Pacers, but me personally I don’t really know who I play like. I think I have a little of both Lance and Joe in my game with me being a big guard who can play multiple positions on both ends of the court. And I think when it comes to scoring I like Joe because he can post up smaller defenders, shoot the midrange (jumper) and make the 3 ball.

As a rookie, some players would have been discouraged or lost confidence in their game after being traded or picked up by a second team. But your departure after 10 games from the Ryukyu Golden Kings, who went on to win a title, to Iwate didn’t appear as a negative for you in any way on the court in 2013-14. Looking back, how would you describe your reaction to the move and how you dealt with it?

I can say I was discouraged but never lost confidence in my game because I’m just the ultimate competitor and us as people and players have to deal with any situation God gives us.

Looking back on the whole situation, it was definitely a learning experience for me being a rookie, but my reaction at first was confusing and not really sure what was next, but I have been faced with adversity many times in my life, which allowed me to look at it as another step in my road I had to get over.

But moving to Iwate wasn’t a downfall at all. The company, players and fans took me in with open arms and I enjoyed playing with them and for the fans. I loved it.

What were the key things that longtime Temple Owls coach Fran Dunphy taught you or helped you improve during your time in the program?

Coach Fran is a very unique coach and his style is very different than most. He taught me how to deal with life more than basketball, which allowed me to be better on the court.

He is a people person and he wants all his players to work for what they want and teaching us that nothing is just given to us. Also, he’s a winning coach. He finds a way to get it done, and that’s what I like most about him.

Which bj-league players have been the most challenging for you to defend?

It’s not really one player who made it tough on me to (guard), it’s a team effort every night trying to stop the best scorer on the other team. Just to name a few players: (Sendai’s) Wendell (White), (Ryukyu’s Anthony) McHenry and (Ryukyu’s) Draelon (Burns), it’s so many other players in this league that’s sometimes hard to guard, but I can’t name them all.

But the few I mentioned just bring so much to the table and are ultimate competitors like myself.

If you were sitting courtside as a TV analyst and describing Scootie Randall the player, what key descriptions and phrases immediately come to mind?

(As a) TV analyst, the first thing that would come to mind is this player is very aggressive and loves to compete on both ends of the court — warrior, tough, feisty, etc.

As a rapidly growing league, now in its 10th season, what do you consider the strengths of the bj-league?

This is a growing league like all others, and when I saying growing I mean with teams, players, sponsors, etc. I think it’s moving in the right direction and can only get better in everything with time.

What has been your biggest thrill as a player?

For me, every game is a thrill for me because I get to go out and do what I love and giving it my all each time out.

As the career leading scorer at Communications Tech, did that give you a confidence boost to carry that torch to Temple and be a featured scorer in college?

I think someone broke my record before the school shut down (in 2013), but I always knew I had the ability to score the basketball. But I was always a team player since day one. I just always told myself if you play defense and compete everything else will take care of itself.

To those in Japan and elsewhere who may not be familiar with the Big 5 rivalries (Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Pennsylvania, Villanova, LaSalle) in Philly), what makes those games so unique and intense?

The Big 5 is competitive every time out because we are all located not too far from each other and it gives us a chance to play and compete against our friends. And it’s just a very intense game each time out because each team wants to win.

How much of a presence was ex-Owls coach John Chaney around the program during your time at the school? Did you see him often at games, practices, team functions? And did he offer memorable advice or say something unique to you?

John Chaney came around here and there to speak with us and give his thoughts on what we needed to do as a ballclub to be better. I noticed him sitting courtside at a few homes games from time to time. Nothing really unique to me, but he always said competing don’t get old.

How has the addition of Jun Nakanishi stabilized Iwate’s backcourt leadership from what you’ve seen in the first two months this season?

Jun has been a great addition to our backcourt with his leadership in many ways. He’s vocal and is a fierce competitor and loves to compete. He’s been great for us thus far. We are thankful for having him as a teammate and a friend as well.

Living in Japan, what have you enjoyed the most in your time away from work?

Living in Japan, I enjoy the culture and the people. Japanese people are great in many ways and I enjoy great people. Love it here.

Is Scootie your given name or a childhood nickname? And is there a unique story behind it?

Scootie is a childhood nickname that was given to me by my mother. Not sure where it came from, but it has stuck since birth.

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Feedback: Send an email to: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp

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