Heard the one about the local college basketball team’s top 3-point shooter being blind as a bat?
Well, not literally, but Khyce Randall’s vision is something far less than 20/20.
“When I look at the goal, I see a blurry image, but I always see orange. That’s the rim. Then there’s nothing. That’s the net. Then there’s some more orange. That’s the back of the rim. When I shoot, I aim in between the orange,” the Howard Payne University guard said recently.
A shooting guard with bad eyesight is unheard of —s at least a good one. Like a .300 hitter in baseball, perfect eyesight would seem a must for a 3-point shooting guard who often aims for the basket from 20-plus feet away.
“One year in middle school, I tried to wear (prescription) goggles, but it just didn’t feel comfortable,” said Randall, who grew up in Beaumont. “I tried contacts one season, but a piece of a lens got caught in my eye. I didn’t want to do that anymore.
“I’m still making shots, so I might as well keep playing blind,” he said. “I’ve been playing blind for so long that, if I did get contacts or goggles now to where I could see things, it might affect my game negatively.”
The 6-foot-2 Randall this season is shooting .410 percent from 3-point range — the same as his overall field goal percentage. His 59 3-pointers are 20 more than anyone else on the HPU roster. He also ranks among the American Southwest Conference leaders in 3-pointers made and 3-point shooting percentage.
As with his other life situations, Randall has learned to get by with poor eyesight.
“I’m so used to playing without being able to see,” he said, “that it’s not a problem.”
As far as Randall can see, anyway.
“As far as he knows, he never takes a bad shot,” joked longtime teammate and friend Rickey Guillory. “He can’t see so he can’t tell when he’s really being guarded. If he misses, he can’t tell how far off his shot was.”
“If I have a bad miss, I still see it as a good shot,” Randall joked back at Guillory.
Folks around HPU basketball who always see Randall and Guillory together just assume they were a package deal. “The 409” for their telephone area code or “The Beaumont Boys” have been basketball teammates since middle school and played high school ball at Beaumont Westbrook.
But that’s not how they arrived at HPU.
“We knew Khyce, but Rickey was the one we were recruiting,” HPU head coach Troy Drummond said. “It was more a case of Rickey’s dad reached out to us. I talked to his dad a lot. We talked about Khyce, but we didn’t know they wanted to go to college together.”
While HPU was Guillory’s only “legitimate” offer to play college basketball, the interest in Randall was even less.
“I had no offers. I was not hearing anything from anybody. I had given up,” Randall said. “I figured I’d just go to college somewhere close to home.”
Guillory’s dad talked to Randall’s mom, and eventually, Randall followed Guillory to HPU for the 2014 fall semester. Randall joined the pickup basketball games and open gym nights for the Yellow Jacket players prior to the start of practice in October.
Guillory immediately knew his longtime friend was good enough to play at HPU, but he kept it to himself. “I didn’t say anything to anybody about Khyce. I let him do that for himself. I let the others see for themselves,” Guillory said.
It wasn’t long before Randall caught the eye of the veteran HPU players. They reported their observations to Drummond, and by the time official practices began, Randall was on the team.
At first, Randall wasn’t sure if he was good enough to play at HPU, but “once I realized how everything fit together and worked, I felt comfortable. The team is like a family. It was nice to have Rickey here,” Randall said.
As freshmen, Randall and Guillory both averaged just over 7 points per game. As sophomores, Randall averaged 15 points and 5.6 rebounds while Guillory averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds. Both made the ASC All-West Division second team.
So far in their junior seasons, Randall is averaging 18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Despite being slowed recently by a knee injury, the 6-foot-3 Guillory is averaging 14.9 points and 5.1 rebounds, plus he leads the team in steals with 44 and ranks second in blocked shots with 42 despite being a guard.
“How lucky were we to get both of them?” Drummond asked.
“To have a player of his caliber just show up on your doorstep without being recruited, I’d equate it to a Division I player who starts as a walk-on but ends up earning a scholarship and becoming a starter,” said Travis Carruthers, HPU’s associate head coach.
Because they’re both from Beaumont, both play guard and their statistics are so similar, obvious questions arise about who is the better basketball player. This is where the longtime friends respectfully disagree.
“I’ve said most of my life that he’s better,” Randall said of Guillory. “Since the eighth grade, we’ve competed against each other in everything we’ve done. He could play any position on the floor. Look at how many rebounds and blocked shots he has. There aren’t many point guards in our conference who can do what Rickey does.”
“Ever since the eighth grade, I’ve modeled my game after Khyce,” Guillory said. “I tried to shoot like Khyce. I tried to handle the ball like Khyce. And by the way, he has more rebounds than I do this season.
“I’m glad he’s here to push me or have my back in any situation.”
A psychology major, Guillory wants to help companies and organization in challenges like team building after college. Randall wants to help young basketball players.
“I’ve learned from my own experience that there are a lot of good (high school) players that don’t get much of a look from colleges,” Randall said. “That’s why I want to be a basketball coach in high school and in summer leagues. There are a lot of players out there with talent who just don’t get much exposure.”