Julius Randall wanted to get to work. This did not surprise Tyler Relf a bit. Relph has been helping Randle train for more than a decade, going back to Randle’s days at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Dallas. Even then, at the age of 15, Randall understood the value of the capital of sweat.
But that was something else. That was different.
When the NBA stopped its season in March, Randall flew to his hometown and continued training, believing it would be a temporary break. He and Relf fell into an old routine: training, conditioning, keeping fit when the call came that the Knicks could play again.
It never was. There would be a bubble in Orlando and most of the league would go there, but the Knicks were missed. Their season is over. And something clicked inside the man, who had averaged 1
“Can’t he play while all the other boys in the league are playing?” Relph says with a laugh. “That pissed him off.”
It wasn’t long before Relph received a call on his cell phone. Randall.
“Let’s get to work,” he said.
“Of course,” Relph said. “Just tell me where and when.”
“Stay where you are,” Randall told him. “We’re going back to Dallas. We are buying a house. I come to you. Let’s go.”
Relph chuckled at the memory.
“I’ve known Ju for many years,” he said. “He wasn’t kidding.”
Was not. In the past, off-season work usually took place in Los Angeles or New York, wherever Randall was housed, a few weeks here, a few weeks there. Sometimes they rested together and he invariably got up until 6 in the morning to go to the gym, then FaceTime, who trained weights, and then went for a 20-kilometer bike ride through Miami.
“At one point I thought he would like to cool down,” Relf said. “But he never did.” Not once. That was different. That was every day. “
For a few days, that meant the two would meet at the gym at 6 a.m., break their legs, work on Randall’s shot, 90 minutes of continuous grinding three or four times a week, which was only the second stop on the route, as Randall would To open his old high school gym at 5 a.m. to light jumpers alone, the first pack of 1,200 clicked every day, every week, every month, for nine months.
Relf soon introduced him to a weightlifter named Melvin Sanders, and the two men hit him immediately.
“Ju likes it when you don’t just organize his workout, you train with him,” says Relf. “This is Melvin.” And that’s me. Thanks to Ju, I’m in better shape now than when I played in college. I have no choice; otherwise I would never be able to stop. “
Relph, a native of Rochester, New York, played two years in West Virginia and two years in St. Bonaventure and caught a coaching mistake after injuring his knee after graduation while serving as an apprentice to Bonnie coach Mark Schmid. In 2010, he decided to become a personal basketball coach and moved to Dallas.
There he met Randall, who was already a premature talent who would have a great first year in Kentucky before going to the Lakers with his seventh draft pick for 2014. He played in Los Angeles for four years, moved to New Orleans for extremely productive season 2018-19, after which he signed a three-year deal with the Knicks for 63 million dollars.
“He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” Relf said. “Far away.” You know, it’s not easy to average 20 and 10 and 3 in the NBA. You don’t do this just by showing up. But even by that standard, he brought it to an incredible level this summer. “
Randall showed up at the gym every day. Sometimes they would have three separate workouts and they do not include weight training sessions with Sanders.
“We had nothing but time,” says Relph, “and he didn’t want to lose anything from it.” We had nine months. So I told him, “Let’s be a star. Let’s try to make you one of the best players in the league. ‘We went back to what we were doing. Legs, stuff to make sure he got to places fast. Again and again. Every day.”
Relf stressed the importance of using a dribble, or two, to be able to fire whenever necessary; when he twice saw Randle use the move to shake off Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Knicks’ third game of the season, he screamed in delight at the TV.
For all the hard work, the most important moment of the summer came on July 30, when the news arrived that the Knicks had hired Tom Thibodeau. Relph immediately thought it would be a perfect marriage.
“I knew what it was going to be,” Relf said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to play 40 [minutes] Every night. If you play hard, Thibs will let you go. We didn’t know he would want him to be a point ahead, but after talking and he said it was just perfect. He plays with all of Ju’s strengths.
“It was phenomenal because Julius and Tibbs are of the same mindset. They are workers. None of them ever got anything, they had to win everything. They are both the first boys to work every day. They see things exactly the same way. “
The payoff, of course, is this season, with the Knicks heading to a surprising start with 5-3, Randle averaging 23.1 points, 12.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists. The game of stars has already been canceled, but Randle’s goal to push his game to the level of stars has so far played out perfectly.
This excited Knicks fans. And it brought joy 1,300 miles west, where his friend and coach, this weekend, will officially open Tyler Relph’s basketball lab in downtown Dallas, where his current clients – RJ Hamton, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skylar Diggins-Smith, among them – will have a home. And where Julius Randall can always go to train well. Although it probably won’t stop at just one.