ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) -- When he takes the court Saturday in a Final Four matchup with Wisconsin, Kentucky forward Julius Randle will be close to home.
The freshman star who has led the eight-seeded Wildcats to an unlikely Final Four berth is a graduate of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, just down the road from AT&T Stadium in Arlington. PCA is a ministry of Prestonwood Baptist Church.
"Julius is a great young man who is solid in his faith," Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, said. "He and his mother, Carolyn, have an incredible bond, and it is wonderful to see how he is devoted to her. Julius loves his family, and he loves his family at PCA, where he was a good student for six years."
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Randle is averaging 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game for Kentucky and leads the nations in double-doubles (games in which a player has double digits in both points and rebounds) with 24. He has posted double-doubles in all four NCAA tournament wins.
Some experts are projecting Randle to be a top-five pick in the NBA draft in June.
On multiple occasions, Randle has publicly expressed his faith in God and his love for the Bible.
"Depending on whether it's a home game, I go to the team chapel," Randle wrote in a blog article on Coach John Calipari's website. "That's just something that's important to me that I spend time hearing God's Word before I go out and play."
Even as a 15-year-old in high school, Randle was willing to talk about his faith in the Lord. In a video interview with ScoutsFocus, Randle said God was "my everything" and that he appreciated the devotionals his PCA coach held for the team.
"He keeps us into the Bible and into the word constantly," Randle said in the video.
As a senior at PCA, Randle led the team to the Texas 5A state title, even though he missed much of the season with a broken foot. He returned from the injury sooner than he expected and scored 34 points in the championship game.
"Honestly, I just think it was a blessing from God," Randle said in an article at coachcal.com about the experience. "He gave me the power to go out there and do that stuff. I don't know how I did it, but it happened. It was definitely God working through me."
Larry Taylor, head of school at PCA, said one of his favorite memories of Randle took place off the basketball court.
"I asked Julius to speak at a Student Leadership Institute National Conference, where I heard him publically proclaim Jesus as his Lord and Savior," Taylor said. "He graduated PCA having achieved many personal and team accolades, including meeting his goal of a GPA above 3.0. But I will always think of Julius as simply a kind and caring young man."
"I truly love the joy that you see in Julius, regardless of what he's doing," Graham added. "He has a great smile, an infectious smile, that now the entire country has noticed. I am confident that Julius will honor Christ with his life and incredibly bright future."
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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