In an ironic turn of events roughly seven years later, Julius Randle was the one recruiting Kenny Payne.
Over at The Undefeated, Marc Spears released an excellent profile on the relationship between Randle and Payne that broke down how the two teamed up once again, this time on the New York Knicks, along with the bond they’ve formed since Randle’s days before and during his one year stint at Kentucky.
New York Knicks star @J30_RANDLE hopes this will be the year he makes the NBA All-Star team. But whether or not it happens, the 26-year-old forward has found the recipe for success with first-year Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) February 23, 2021
Over the summer, Payne decided to accept a position on the Knicks coaching staff alongside newly introduced head coach, Tom Thibodeau. It meant a fan-favorite of both the Big Blue Nation and the student-athletes who have come through the program was leaving the school he called home since 2010. But on the flip side, it created a Kentucky “Super Team” up in the Big Apple. Payne was now part of a system where he would be able to link up and once again coach several of his former players, including Nerlens Noel, Kevin Knox, Immanuel Quickley, and, of course, Julius Randle.
Randle has been playing up to All-Star standards this season and could very well be named to his first-ever All-Star Team when the reserves are announced later on Tuesday. The former ‘Cat and second-year player for the Knicks is averaging career-highs across the board in points (23.2), rebounds (11.0), and assists (5.5) while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3-point range, and 80.5 percent from the charity stripe. Randle is the engine behind the Knicks offense that has them sitting on a 15-16 record and within striking distance of the postseason for the first time in years.
In the article, Payne talks about Randle slowing down, not pressing, and becoming more comfortable with himself as a basketball player in regards to his improved play. Randle is in contention for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award on top of a potential All-Star appearance. He knew coming into the season he had an opportunity to prove himself, he just needed someone like Payne to help bring it out.
“I was like, ‘Yo, if there’s any truth to that, any chance that you come here, I need you here,’ ” Randle said. “Having somebody like him in your corner, man, is irreplaceable.”
“He called me and said, ‘KP, c’mon, man, I need you,’ ” Payne recalled. “He said, ‘I will buy a treadmill, put it in my living room and you can run me to death.’ ” via, The Undefeated
You can read the entire article here.