Jerome Randle Q&A: Retirement, BAL, UNLMTED, Cal U, post-career vision

Jerome Randle Q&A: Retirement, BAL, UNLMTED, Cal U, post-career vision

Jerome Randle's first season in the Basketball Africa League will coincide with his last as a professional basketball player.

Shortly after his BAL debut with U.S. Monastir of Tunisia in a winning effort over Stade Malien of Mali, Randle announced the news over the phone.

"I'm retiring after this year," Randle revealed to Basketball News. "There's so many things that I'm into right now as far as building my brand to help kids and training and developing and things like that. I had an opportunity to go to Spain and play in the [LIGA] ACB. I mean, I've played there before. But it's like, okay, I've never been to Africa. I wanted to (go). Why not experience something like this, to play in Africa?

"And the BAL is a respectful situation and I'm enjoying myself. I'm shaking a lot of hands and creating a lot of relationships for the things that I want to do as well, so it's also a business decision as well. I'm excited about it, man. I'm talking to a lot of people that are making sure I'm involved in this because it's a lot of potential. I know the talent is only gonna get better. We're just gonna see what happens."

The Chicago native is a former California Golden Bears standout who won the then-Pac-10 Player of the Year award in 2010 and built an outstanding career from that point on. Aside from brief stints in summer league, the then-D League and exhibition games, Randle did not step foot on an NBA court in the regular season. What he did do, however, was carve his own successful career path.

From 2011 to now, Randle has played in Ukraine, Israel, Russia, Belgium, Turkey, Australia, Lithuania, France, Germany, Spain and, now, Africa. He's been a Turkish League All-Star, an LKL Champion and an NBL MVP and two-time scoring champion (and an assist leader) to name a few of his accolades.

With his final season as a pro underway, Randle spoke to Basketball News about his decision to join the BAL, the talent in Africa, his UNLMTED brand, the current state of Cal basketball and more.

You just made your BAL debut with U.S. Monastir on Sunday, dropping 18 points and 8 assists in 34 minutes. Was it what you expected?

Jerome Randle: "It was cool, man. The old man still can move. I'm 35. These young guys, they run up and down this court. They've got me really putting in work two days before just to prepare for a game. But I take care of my body, so I Iove it. I'm loving what they're doing with it. This is the third year, third season. Just imagine what's gonna happen the next two years or three years. Man, it's gonna be something that's bigger than anything people could ever imagine, especially just being in Africa. So, I'm excited for what's to come."

The game of basketball is global, and the BAL is helping African talent get discovered. The last three years has given these players another level of exposure. How do you feel about that?

Randle: "We just had a meeting about something like that. You have so many countries out here with talent (and those players) just don't get the opportunity to go to college or even go to high school. So for me, that's my vision. My vision is to create a program where kids are able to showcase their talent, have the exposure that they need just to be seen, and put them in the position where they can go to high school or prep school and be a collegiate athlete.

"So me being over here, seeing a 16-year-old, 7-foot-2 kid who has so much potential [Khaman Maluach], it's like, only guys like that are being seen when you have so many other talented players that will probably be a lot more successful had they gotten their opportunity, and not because they're 7-2. The reason why I'm so passionate about it's because the odds was stacked up against me at 5-foot-9. So, I want to look out for the younger, smaller guys that people don't look at as being the potential NBA player and things like that. Because there's so many opportunities outside of the NBA that we have to find a way to utilize."

What are your goals with U.S. Monastir and individually since it's your last season?

Randle: "I want to win the BAL. That's my goal. I signed with the team just so I can have a day-to-day 'cause I could've just signed with them only for the BAL, but it was like, 'Okay, let me just go in and just play,' just have that everyday regimen just to workout, play a couple games with Tunisia [in February's Intercontinental Cup].

"Obviously, I would never sign in Tunisia, but it was because they were affiliated with the BAL (that I did). So I took a chance, and I'm enjoying my time. The guys are cool. It's good to just meet new people, man. It's always good to be on another side of the world and meet great people, and I have met them."

Who on your team stands out to you?

Randle: "One that I like more so for his energy and positivity is this guy Lassaad (Chouaya). He's just always working hard, man, no matter what. We connected the first time I stepped foot in Tunisia just because he was a positive guy, he wanted to work hard. I'm going to the gym two, three hours before practice (and) he's right there just putting in the work. I can only relate to guys who work hard."

You are one of eight ex-G League talents and 18 former Division I college athletes playing in the Sahara Conference currently. Is there anybody you've competed against or previously played with that you have crossed paths with?

Randle: "No. I can't say I have seen anyone that I've actually played with or against in the BAL from the G League. I was only in the G League for a small, small time. It wasn't that long, but I went over to Ukraine right after that. My experience in the G League, the D-League at that time, it was okay. That's when I left the [Dallas] Mavericks [affiliate Texas Legends] and I went over to the Maine Red Claws.

"The experience was... I guess my thought process was (it's) them developing you to make it to the NBA, and it just wasn't like that at that particular time. So, I decided to go overseas and play. I probably should've stayed, probably would've gave myself a better opportunity to make it to the NBA had I stayed there. But there were other things that I needed to do."

You mentioned there are things you want to do after your career is finished this year. Could you go into detail about what you're aiming for?

Randle: "Well, I have a brand called UNLMTED. What it means is: Uniquely Navigating Life Molds Tenacity Endurance and Determination. Basically, that's my life story. My story's coming out, just about my career and the things that I've been through over 13, 14 years of just being a professional athlete — all the ups and downs and everything that I had to go through.

"People ask me all the time, 'Man, why are you not in the NBA?' I just feel like now it's time to just break my silence on a lot of things that's happened, a lot of things that I experienced. And those experiences is gonna help a lot of kids that's coming up that want to be a professional athlete. It's developing and doing clinics, camps all over the world, man. It's just teaching kids a different type of way and understanding what discipline and that mentality, that Mamba Mentality. All of that stuff plays a part in what they want to do, if they follow a code."

Does this time of year take you back to your college days in Berkeley?

Randle: "Yeah, but it'll only bring back memories when Cal is back on the map. I'm a little bit irritated with this whole college March Madness thing because I need to get my school back to where it needs to be."

What do you think that's going to take?

Randle: "I just think times have changed now. Times have definitely changed. The whole dynamic of what college basketball used to be, it's not what it is right now. You have the NIL, you have all sorts of things that play against Cal being one of those places where people want to go. Because we go by a certain type of standard.

"And I feel like once Cuonzo (Martin) left — we had Jaylen Brown, we had a lot of those guys — I just feel like (after that) was just a rough patch. I feel like Mark Fox did a good job with what he had, and now we have to figure out a way to get someone in there that understands what the culture is right now, what's going on, how to play this game to get players in there."

Do you keep up with your old Cal teammates and talk about it?

Randle: "We speak. I think everybody is more involved now because just that Cal pride is something that we all want. It's like, when you hear about Cal, it's like we don't have nothing to talk about right now 'cause they're not even competing to the point where we really can just say, 'Okay, (there's) that Cal pride (where) we're gonna be in the [NCAA] tournament.' It's just not like that no more right now. We're gonna get back. We're all gonna be positive about the situation 'cause I'm sure it's gonna change."

Final question: What was the most important and beneficial experience of your career and why?

Randle: "The struggles, man. The struggles and dealing with everything that comes with being a professional basketball player. I mean, basketball is the easy thing. Either you're gonna make or you're gonna miss a shot. You're gonna be a defensive player or you're not. You know what I'm saying? It's white and black. It's nothing too complicated. From the obstacles and everything that you deal with, the problems that you deal with, (they) make you appreciate so much more in life.

"I go by that. I go by that whole thing about just appreciating the process... I try my best to help as many kids as I possibly can. I can talk about as many countries as I want to, what I like best about 'em, but I only appreciate the things that's happened that I can learn from and help kids that's growing up."

More infomation regarding the BAL:

  • Sahara Conference teams include: US Monastir (Tunisia), AS Douanes (Senegal), Abidjan Basketball Club (Côte d’Ivoire), Kwara Falcons (Nigeria), Rwanda Energy Group (Rwanda) and Stade Malien (Mali)
  • The 2023 BAL season will reach fans in 214 countries and territories in 17 languages through free-to-air and paid TV broadcast partnerships with the African Union of Broadcasting, American Forces Network (AFN), Canal+, ESPN (sub-Saharan Africa), NBA TV, Tencent, TV5 Monde, Visionary TV and Voice of America (VOA), and livestreaming on the NBA App, and
  • The Basketball Africa League (BAL), a partnership between FIBA and the NBA, is a professional league featuring the top 12 club teams from 12 African countries.
  • Headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, the BAL builds on the foundation of club competitions FIBA Africa has organized in Africa and marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside North America.
  • The third BAL season tipped off on Saturday, March 11, 2023, and will once again feature the top 12 club teams from 12 African countries playing a total of 38 games in Dakar, Senegal; Cairo, Egypt and Kigali, Rwanda over three months in 2023.
    • The 12 teams include defending BAL champion US Monastir (Tunisia) and five other teams returning from the 2022 season.  Five teams will compete in the BAL for the first time, including the first BAL teams from Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda: Abidjan Basket Club (Côte d’Ivoire), Al Ahly (Egypt), City Oilers (Uganda), Kwara Falcons (Nigeria) and Stade Malien (Mali).  AS Douanes (Senegal) returns to the BAL after participating in the inaugural season in 2021. 
    • Champions from the national leagues in Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia earned their participation in the 2023 BAL season by winning their respective national leagues. 
    • The remaining six teams, which come from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa, and Uganda, secured their participation through the Road to the BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by FIBA Africa across the continent from October to November 2022.
  • During the 2023 BAL season, the 12 club champions will be divided into two conferences. 
    • The Sahara Conference will play a 15-game group phase at the Dakar Arena in Dakar from March 11-21, and the Nile Conference will play a 15-game group phase at the Hassan Mostafa Indoor Sports Complex in Cairo from April 26 - May 6. 
    • The top four teams from each conference will advance to an eight-game, single elimination Playoffs and Finals at BK Arena in Kigali from May 21-27. 
  • Each BAL team will have up to 13 players, at least eight of whom are citizens of their respective team’s home country and up to four of whom are from other countries, with no more than two players per team from outside of Africa. 
    • 12 NBA Academy Africa prospects from seven African countries who will join the 12 BAL teams for the league’s 2023 season as part of the second edition of the “BAL Elevate” program. 
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