For Richmond's Marcus Randolph Jr., Hoops Helps
Marcus Randolph Jr. and basketball overcame adversity together.
His hardships before attending the University of Richmond forced growth as a man and player.
Randolph forged his talents alongside family and friends, but not all lived to witness his success.
Holding those he lost dear, he learned to play through the pain. Basketball is his therapy.
Bigger and Better
Randolph first remembers touching a basketball when he was 5 years old and at a family reunion.
His cousin, Thomas Farrior, who later played for Wilmington University, nudged him towards the game. He encouraged him to get out and play at every opportunity, building the young player shot after shot, becoming an inspiration.
Around age 6, Randolph’s father moved the family from their hometown of Irvington, New Jersey to Willingboro, New Jersey and safer neighborhoods. In his new town, he joined an instructional league, but he was different than many others.
“I was bigger and better,” Randolph said.
His coaches noticed, too.
Developing his skills early gave him a competitive edge over all the other kids in his age group.
They decided Randolph should play games instead of just doing drills and skill training Saturday mornings. Bumping him up to the recreational league, Randolph was separated from his friends and realized his teammates were all older.
“At first, I was thinking that I wasn’t ready for this, but I just jumped in that water,” Randolph said.
He hit the court and showed he belonged. The time he spent training with his cousin showed as he dominated on the court but faced new struggles at home.
His father, diagnosed with kidney disease, helped him learn independence during elementary school. Marcus Randolph Sr. is a member of the 4 time Grammy nominated Robert Randolph & The Family Band, but could no longer hit the road for shows.
Randolph knew he needed to step up and help.
“I had to be the man of the house,” he said.
During his father’s dialysis, Randolph alleviated stress on his parents by taking up more chores, so his mother could focus on helping his father.
The experience matured him at a young age, but he still needed time for what he loved.
“Getting in the gym was like my therapy,” Randolph said. “When I was in those walls, all I was worried about was the basketball game.”
He shed off the worries, pain, and struggles, leaving it all on the court.
Trisha Randolph, his mother, helped save his father. She gave Marcus Randolph Sr. a kidney and put him on the road to recovery.
With his father slowly getting stronger, Randolph's focus shifted back towards hoops.
Randolph spent those years playing in recreational league and was on the cusp of entering middle school and dedicated time most days to getting better.
The “drills” he and his friends ran put other middle schoolers to shame. They had their own conditioning routine, running up and down one of the largest hills they could find locally.
“It was no man left behind,” Randolph said.
They went up the hill together and would not go down until every single person made it, doing it until they met their set amount of reps.
The rigor paid off, with a number of them attending Division I schools. NC State running back Demie Sumo-Karngbaye, Rutgers wide receiver Chris Long, and Lafayette quarterback Ah-Shaun Davis are all among those Randolph trained with. While his friends found success in football, Randolph started an AAU journey. After playing for his recreational league, his coaches invited him to the “Boro” Blitz. He had a solid year on the Blitz, and went on to try out for the Philly Triple Threat.
Randolph made the cut, but something he never experienced before happened.
He did not start.
“I didn’t realize that there were as many people as good as me,” Randolph said.
Receiving limited playing time, he took it as a challenge. Getting better became a top priority. Sometimes, his neighbors even called the police because of the noise he made from dribbling too early or too late.
Then, in the midst of his training, tragedy struck.
Randolph was outside, and heard loud bangs in the distance.
Later in the day, he received grim news.
One of his friends was the victim of a drive-by shooting.
Hearing the news hurt, but Randolph knew what could ease the pain.
His therapy: basketball.
The very next day, Randolph and his friends got to the courts and played harder, working through the pain.
“It made us focus on the positive stuff,” he said
Photos credited to Richmond Athletics
Turning the Page
Their hard work paid off.
Focusing on the positive while playing basketball made them stronger, more resilient, and better than other players their age.
Right before his next level of education, Randolph tried out for Team Final and joined the elite AAU team.
Randolph first attended high school locally at Willingboro High School, elevating the school team to a new level. Willingboro came short in two playoff runs, losing the championship game his sophomore year.
Unfortunately, that same year, he lost Awwal Reid, one of his greatest basketball inspirations.
Reid passed in a tragic car collision, giving Randolph and his community unparalleled grief.
Once again, basketball eased the pain.
That summer, he made a name for himself in the AAU, putting up numbers when his team needed him most.
Team Final provided a stepping stone for Randolph to join the Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL). While competing for the team, Randolph connected with various players and coaches who wanted him to take his talents to Archbishop Wood High School.
Going to Archbishop Wood meant being surrounded by friends he met through AAU and joining a team that had incredible recruitment prospects.
He left Willingboro High School after his second year. Randolph entered one of the country’s most successful high school basketball programs when he transferred, but faced a substantial challenge everyday attending Archbishop Wood: transportation. To get looks from Division I schools and perform for hundreds, he needed to get from Willingboro to Philadelphia every day.
The trip takes almost an hour both ways, fighting Philadelphia traffic the entire time.
Long Uber trips were a new norm for Randolph, but he believes it helped mature him.
“My dad was always big on independence, and would tell me that you got to wake up yourself. If I missed it, it would be on me,” Randolph said. “I was on scholarship, and I would be wasting their [Archbishop Wood’s] money if I missed school.”
He settled into his new routine, and played his heart out.
The boys worked through the conference, and broke the top 30 high school teams nationally.
In 2020-21, the Archbishop Wood Vikings took home the PCL title, with Randolph scoring 18 in a 68-59 title game victory.
Recruiters noticed his efforts, and he received a dozen different Division I offers.
Due to COVID, Randolph officially visited just one school: Richmond.
He loved the atmosphere and felt comfortable on the beautiful campus and knew the school was right for him. Near instantly, the coaches saw the positive energy Randolph brought.
“A lot of people talk about having passion for the game, but with Marcus he doesn’t have to talk about it,” said Richmond assistant coach Will Gipe. “If you watch him practice and play, his passion for the game is evident just watching him.”
Richmond, being an Atlantic 10 power, already possessed a core set of players. Randolph confronted a problem he had not encountered since middle school: playing time.
He worried about proving himself on the collegiate stage and felt a burden weighing on shoulders. This past year, Richmond graduated a number of its seniors, and Randolph intends on seeing an increase in his limited minutes.
“Marcus’ versatility as a player gives him great opportunities to both play and have success at Richmond,” Gipe added.
His freshman season, he knew how to make every second count.
Randolph gets in the game against Hofstra University.
He gets the ball at the corner and takes the shot.
It flies through the air.
Just like that, the worries melt away.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a tax deductible donation. College Basketball Times is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to equal coverage for all levels of college hoops. The operation of this site is made possible through your generous donations.