When I knew ... with Zach Randolph

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
1:00
PM ET
Zach RandolphJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesZach Randolph's rebounding prowess can be traced back to high school.
CRED CHECK: Z-Bo, now in his 12th season, is one of the best on the boards.

THE MOMENT: "One of the first games of my sophomore year at Marion High School in Indiana -- man, that's when everything changed. I was finally on the varsity squad, balling with the older guys, and we were playing Anderson Highland. I was 6-8, but their center was big too -- 6-7, a real thick and muscular dude. And I dominated him. I had 16 rebounds by the middle of the fourth quarter, but the hardest one was No. 17.

"I remember the play like it was yesterday. I was on the right block when their guard put up a jumper. Their center boxed me out real good, and there was a lot of traffic, maybe three other guys in the area, but I found some breathing room, anticipated the bounce off the rim, gathered my legs, got my big butt off the ground and just leaped over them, snatching that ball with my left hand. Ha-ha ... yeah, boy! And keep in mind, I've got small hands, man. Always did, still do. But I cradled it with my left hand for a second and then dribbled it out of traffic. Now, in high school I was a fan of C-Webb, so I loved to bring the ball up the court like him. But in this case, I passed it to our point guard, Andre Betts. I don't even remember how that play ended. All I was thinking at that point was, 'Damn, rebounding is an art!'

"How did I do it? Well, rebounding is about positioning, yeah, but it's also about having a feel for the ball and how it comes off the rim. That play, where I anticipated it perfectly and grabbed a one-hander in traffic, that's when I knew I had that special feel. My boys knew it too. After the game, everybody was talking about my 25 points and 20 boards, but those guys in the trenches were talking about that 17th rebound. My coaches gave me love, and Andre said, "Man, that s--- was crazy, Z-Bo! I ain't never seen nothin' like that." After that, I was like: 'You know what, man? I can rebound with the best of 'em. Even if I do have small hands.'"

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Sam Alipour is a Senior Writer at ESPN Magazine and contributor to ESPN and ESPN.com. Contact him at sam.alipour@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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