Randall, Pirates one win from dream
Getting taken out behind the woodshed by an older brother and his buddy while shooting hoops isn't an uncommon occurrence for an average elementary-aged kid growing up in rural North Dakota.
Throw a girl in the mix, however, and that elementary-aged kid might just grow up to be a multiple Class B all-state award recipient.
Kidder County senior Adam Randall will lead the Pirates out on to the floor of the Jamestown Civic Center this evening to compete in the biggest game of his exceptional prep career.
The only thing missing from the two-time all-state performer's résumé is a trip to the state Class B tournament, which would come to fruition with a win over the LaMoure Loboes in today's Region 3 championship game.
Racking up over 2,100 career points and aiding Kidder County to 71 wins as a starter over the past 4 seasons all had to have started from somewhere. For Randall, it began when he was still receiving visits from the Tooth Fairy in Steele, N.D.
"I started playing when I was about 5 or so," Randall said. "My parents bought me a little hoop, it was probably only about 7 feet tall, and I played all the time."
The constant ball playing wasn't just relegated to the outdoors.
"As soon as he could walk he was knocking this little ball he had off the floor, down the steps, off the wall," Adam's father, Dwight Randall said. "We always had to tell him not to bounce it off the wall."
But Adam's competitive nature began to flourish at an early age when the game was played outside, usually a pick-up game with his older brother, Andrew. Sometimes the brothers would be joined by their neighbors across the street, Marcus and Whitney Eckroth.
Whitney would go on to become an all-stater herself, helping Steele-Dawson to a state tourney berth during her senior season in 2007. A torn ACL kept Whitney on the sideline during Steele-Dawson-Wing-Tuttle-Pettibone-Robinson's state tournament run in 2005.
"She'd always call, 'Can Adam come out and play?'" Adam's mother, Sheila Randall recalled.
Being the youngest of the group, Adam fielded his share of lumps. Andrew and Marcus were 5 years older than Adam, and his drive to keep up is largely responsible for the Kidder County ball player that now stands 6-foot-4.
"I got my butt kicked when I was little," Adam said. "It made me mad. I just kept practicing and practicing."
The constant practicing paid off early. Starting at the age of 9, Adam rifled off 4 state Elks free-throw championships and earned 2 Knights of Columbus free-throw titles.
Practicing then took the form of countless summer leagues and camps, and most recently a two-year stint with the ECI West AAU program, coached by Minot State University assistant coach Steve Grabowski. Adam competed in approximately 30 games with the ECI West team last summer, playing at locations as far away as Louisville, Ken., and Las Vegas, Nev.
"It was hard when we couldn't follow him last summer. We'd be wondering how he did and how the team did," Dwight Randall said. "We'd be waiting for him to call, hopefully he wasn't hurt."
In fact, the only injury that has kept Adam from competing in a high school game occurred this winter. Adam was forced to sit out two games with a blister on the sole of his left foot.
"It was really hard, but in the end I think it made us better," Adam said. "The guys had to do more stuff and now they're able to do that."
He could be right.
Kidder County is currently in position to get back to the state Class B for the first time since Steele-Dawson made the show in 1991, and during Randall's run the team has finished no better than third in the Region 3 tournament (2006-07).
"The beauty of it is he's a really nice kid. You can't help but like him," Kidder County coach Paul Olson said. "He'll do whatever you ask him to, whether it's handling the ball or going to the block, or defending a certain guy. He's just a fantastic kid."
That became clear during Tuesday night's Region 3 semifinal victory over Napoleon. Randall was forced to fight through double and triple teams all evening -- to which he's now grown accustomed -- and finished well below his 26-point average scoring just 9 in a 53-39 Kidder County victory.
Randall, however, posted 8 assists.
"(The team) most definitely feeds off him," Olson said. "They know the more attention he gets the more looks they'll get.
"He's also a guy that leads by example. He doesn't get loud with anybody. They all get along well and know their jobs for what it takes for the team to be successful."
"It's been fun, not only watching Adam, but also the whole team. They've been playing together for a long time," Sheila Randall said. "It's sad to think of it coming to an end, but we're excited to follow Adam next year, wherever he goes."
According to Adam, who said he plans to stay in state to play college basketball next season, the team is as close as one would expect after years of being together and on the brink of state.
"We do everything together. The overall friendship we have is great," Adam said. "It would mean everything to us to get there. Ever since we were little we've dreamed about this week."
The itch to actually make the final 8 teams playing can only be compounded after watching the Kidder County girls win the state Class B championship a season ago and place seventh at state in Minot last week.
Adam and the team were there, cheering on the girls each day.
"There's really not too much rivalry with the girls' team. We both want each other to be good," Adam said. "We actually would probably like to be more like them.
"I was thinking the whole time how fun it would be to bring the boys up here in a couple of weeks."
After 32 minutes tonight against LaMoure, Adam and Kidder County will have their answer.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org