HAYWARD, Calif. -
It was an hour before tip-off and people were scrambling to court 3 at Hayward Dream Courts.
Mind you, there are seven NBA-regulation courts stretched throughout the monstrous facility – promoted as the "largest indoor sports facility in the country" - but spectator space was thinning for this elite match-up of the Elite Youth Basketball League
Though 40 of the best AAU boys basketball teams in the country featuring more than 400 of the top basketball players had landed at this four-day extravaganza, there was only one
. And there was only one Julius Randle
And the pair of projected top 4 NBA 2014 draft picks were going mano-a-mano on center stage.
Not only were media, coaches and basketball connoisseurs racing courtside to gawk, but so too were many of the other blue-chip prep recruits as well.
Parker, after all, is the consensus No. 1 2013 recruit in the country, who recently donned the cover of Sports Illustrated, which flatly stated he is "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James."
Randle, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound specimen, has a stoutly physique that will remind you of James at that age. He's ranked No. 2 in the same class by many services and No. 4 by MaxPreps
"Both are unreal," said St. Louis Eagles forward Nolan Berry,
a highly skilled 6-8, 220-pound standout and the nation's No. 85 recruit from the class of 2013. The Butler commit was standing courtside, waiting for tip-off. "We played both teams and man, both those guys are so good. Jabari is so skilled for how big he is and Julius is so strong. One is one and one is two, take your pick. Either way they are top flight players."
On this day, under very intense conditions, Randle and his Team Texas Titans got the best of Parker and the Mac Irvin Fire, 63-59.
Randle had game-high 23 points to go with a team-high 13 rebounds. He made 6-of-10 shots, 11 of 15 free throws and added a pair of blocks.
Parker, the 6-8, 220-pounder from Simeon (Chicago, Ill.)
, had just 14 points on 6 of 14 shots and was 2-for-3 at the line. He had five rebounds, two assists and never looked in rhythm.
Afterward, Randle underplayed the match-up and his performance, instead deflecting attention to teammates
, a 6-5, 190-pound wing from DeSoto (Texas)
who had 19 points and eight rebounds, and 5-9 point guard Marquan Botley
, who was terrific with 10 points, four assists and no turnovers.
"I'm a team guy and all I wanted to do was win the game," Randle said. "I thought I played well. I could always do better, but as a team we were great. We defended real well."
And as far as the showdown with Parker?
"We've known each other since we were real young," he said. "We never played while we're in high school so there was a lot of anticipation. He and I have talked a little over the years. I just tried to focus on what I had to do."
Afterward, Parker wasn't talking at all. Known as cordial and media friendly, Parker shook his head and walked right past when asked if he could answer a couple of questions. This was 10 minutes after the game.
Though Parker was mum, his coach Mike Irvin was not. He and his Fire assistants lived up their team's moniker throughout the game, fueled because Randle wouldn't guard Parker straight up per instruction from Titan coach Scott Pospichal.
"That took the steam out of the match-up," Irvin said. "There's always a game within a game and everyone wanted to see Julius Randle versus Jabari Parker. Those guys are both 6-9 and they should be going at each other. I had (Parker) guarding (Randle). That's the way we do things in Chicago but evidently they don't see it the same way."
Pospichal neither apologized for the move, nor applauded it. He just thought it was the smart thing to do.
"I know they wanted us to have Julius guard Jabari but why would I do that when Matthew Jones is our best defender?" Pospichal said. "Let someone else lock up with Jabari and let Julius win the game for us. That's just what he did."
Parker guarded Randle most of the way and did a good job forcing three early turnovers off dribble penetration. But Randle, extremely quick and determined, eventually made his mark and forced fouls. His 15 free throw attempts were almost as many as Mac Irvin had as a team (17).
Twenty three fouls were called on Mac Irvin to 16 for Team Texas in a game that lacked any flow and at times resembled a wrestling match.
Standout 6-8 wing Russell Woods
played just 17 minutes and fouled out for Mac Irvin, which got 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds from beefy 6-11, 255-pound Jahlil Okafor
, one of the top sophomores in the country. They also got 14 points by Billy Garrett Jr
. (No. 35 from 2013).
Mac Irvin made just 23 of 58 shots (40 percent) to 19-for-40 for the Titans. The biggest difference was perimeter shooting. Mac Irvin was 0-for-16 on 3-pointers and Team Texas 7 of 13.
"The refs seemed to be a bit bias toward Randle because he was getting all the calls," Irvin said. "Maybe we were just being over aggressive but he just kept getting to the line and that was the difference."
Pospichal, an upbeat and strong presence, saw it differently. He approached mid-court and called out the Mac Irvin coaches for yelling out the wrong time as Titan shot clock wound down. On a couple of possessions, the shot clock was at 12 and a Mac Irvin assistant yelled out 5-4-3-2-1.
The referees did a nice job intervening, though Pospichal was clearly just wanting to have a conversation.
"That's not right and they know it," Pospichal said. "You just don't do that."
He said the two programs have had a strong rivalry for almost a decade.
"A lot of these kids have been playing against each other since the sixth grade," he said. "Every time we play it's a war. But it's always a great rivalry and great game and great fun. After the game is over, we root for their guys. During the game everyone wants to win."
As far as match-up between Randle and Parker, Pospichal said: "Julius showed why he's the hardest guy in America to guard. You can't guard him with just one guy and sometimes not with two."
Pospichal thought the unsung hero for the Titans was Botley, a junior from Prestonwood Christian (Plano)
"He had an amazing game," Pospichal said. "I think he showed every Division I coach in America they better start knocking on his door."
Everyone will be knocking down the door if these two teams face up again at the Nike Peach Jam and EYBL Finals July 18-21 in South Carolina.
Okafor said though disheartening to lose, "We played hard. It was a good physical game and it just came down to a couple of possessions. When you lose a game like that you come back hungrier. We definitely want to see them again."E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @mitchmashmax.