Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)
OLNEY — Scootie Randall won’t get too caught up in the wins.
Undefeated with Blue Magic in the 17th annual Danny Rumph Classic, a charity pro-am tournament at La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena, the former Communications Tech and Temple forward is more focused on appreciating the bigger picture than his team or individual success.
“It’s more about what it stands for and the cause,” he said on Friday night. “When we come out here we have to be mindful of that and respectful of the cause. I think it’s all about coming here and having fun.”
Remaining respectful is a major goal for Randall, the 2011 Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player. Respect is perhaps the most crucial tenet of society in Japan, where Randall has played basketball professionally since 2013, and it’s a feeling he tries to show in his everyday life.
“We need to respect each other,” Randall said. “I know every culture is different, but we really have to show respect to each other. And that's one thing I value about Japanese culture: No matter who it is, they show respect on every level.”
Communications Tech and Temple product Scootie Randall has spent the entirety of his pro career in Japan. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Following a five-year career at Temple in which he averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in his senior season, Randall headed to Japan to start his life as a pro for the Iwate Big Bulls, then of the BJ League. Unsure of what to expect moving overseas, he was quickly consumed by the beauty of his new home.
“When I got off the plane,” he recalled, ”I said 'I just don’t want to be anywhere else.'”
As he arrived in Japan, the language barrier presented the most problems for Randall initially. The culture, on the other hand, was an aspect of the country that he gained an admiration for right away.
Randall found that people in Japan carried themselves a bit differently than in the United States, with each person looking to avoid offending one another and prevent conflict at all times. Japanese people also hold a great reverence for the elderly and those with experience or knowledge in a particular field.
“They’re a very respectful culture,” Randall said, “so we have to be mindful of a lot of the things we do.”
As he began to learn the language and how to fit into life in Japan, Randall also had to worry about the start of his professional career. The jump from college is never easy, but the forward knew he could make it work with the right effort.
“I think overseas, as a whole, is more of a grind,” he said. “But playing in Japan is more of just dealing with the culture and understanding how they live life. And you apply that on the court.”
Once on the court, it started to click for Randall. Despite the language barrier, he was able to feel connected to those around him while playing. Randall brought his talent, of course, to the floor. But maybe more importantly, he brought a certain dedication to the league — a respect — that his team and the fans desired.
“They accepted me well because I wear my emotions on my sleeve and take the game seriously,” he said. “They want to see the love that you have for the game more than scoring or winning. And that’s what I tried to do.”
Over the years, Randall, now 32, has learned to speak Japanese and has put together a solid career in Japan. At 6-foot-7, he’s a mismatch for many opponents, thick enough to punish guards and smaller forwards with enough of an outside game to challenge bigs on the perimeter. His nickname at the Rumph Classic is ‘The Bully.’
Randall has twice won Player of the Year in the second division of the Japanese B. League, and this past season he won the B2 championship with the Nagoya Fighting Eagles while being named Finals MVP.
Additionally, he’s been able to bring his perspective as a former Division I player in the U.S. to help others in Japan. Japanese players pay attention to how things are done stateside and want to learn about how the game is played in the U.S. The opportunity to make an influence based on his experiences has been one of the most rewarding parts of Randall’s time in Japan.
“Just being able to impact a culture that resembles us, in terms of basketball,” Randall said. “They watch what we do, and being able to translate that into a teaching aspect while I'm playing, that’s the most memorable thing for me.”
Randall re-signed with Nagoya after the championship season, and he’s back in Philadelphia for the summer offseason, trying to play in as many local events like the Rumph as he can. Living in Japan with his wife for almost 10 months a year, the rest of his family doesn’t get to see him play much.
“It’s good to just continue to play every chance I get. And again it’s for the cause, and that’s what it’s all about,” Randall said.
On Saturday evening, Randall helped Blue Magic improve to 3-0 as he scored 10 points in a 56-45 victory over Rumph Center that sent his team to Monday night’s championship game. Winning it all would certainly be nice, but Randall’s priority is to bring his passion and energy for the game and the event, showing everyone at home what’s made him a standout in Japan.
“On the court, I just try to lead by example,” he said. “And I try to stay true to who I am as a person, first and foremost, and as a player. And if it translates, cool. If it doesn’t, I did what I’m supposed to do.”