FLORENCE — North Alabama women’s coach Terry Fowler doesn’t have to think long when asked to describe the playing style of junior forward Mekena Randle.
“Relentless,” Fowler said. “That’s the best word to describe Mekena. Her motor is always going and she is relentless on the boards.”
Randle, a Madison native, transferred to UNA during the summer after spending two seasons at Arkansas State. The 5-foot-9 forward has emerged as a rebounding machine for the Lions, ranking second in the Gulf South Conference with an average of 10.3 boards per game.
While there is no official statistic for double-doubles, Randle has reached double figures in points and rebounds in nine of 15 games entering tonight’s home game against Shorter.
“I don’t know what it is; I just have a feel for which way to go to get the ball,” Randle said. “I do take pride in getting rebounds because I’m not very tall. Playing against bigger girls has never intimidated me.”
In addition to her outstanding rebounding, Randle also leads UNA (11-4, 4-1 GSC) in scoring at 13.1 points per game. Those numbers are much different from the 1.3 points and 2.2 rebounds she averaged last season at Arkansas State.
“Last year at Arkansas State was good at first,” Randle said. “I was pretty much the sixth man and was playing good minutes. Maybe it was because I wasn’t scoring enough, but after a while I wasn’t getting much playing time.”
Frustrated with her lack of playing time, Randle considered transferring. She had talked to UNA during her senior season at Bob Jones High School and figured it might be the right place for her to transfer.
“It was a hard decision because I don’t want to ever be a quitter,” she said. “But I also didn’t want to waste two more years. If I had stayed I know I wouldn’t be contributing to the team like I am here.
“UNA was perfect because it is close to home and has a culinary program. Coming back home not only gave me an opportunity to play more and it also allowed by parents to come watch me play.”
Randle quickly showed that she had the talent to help UNA, scoring 15 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in a season-opening loss to Tuskegee. After coming off the bench early in the season she became a full-time starter when senior forward Julia Myers was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Fowler said Randle has been a perfect fit for the Lions.
“We needed a high-energy player and Mekena plays hard all the time,” Fowler said. “There is no doubt she can play at the Division I level. I think she was playing out of position at Arkansas State, where here she can play her natural position in the post.
“We didn’t offer her out of high school because she was only 5-9, but she has certainly proven us wrong this year. She was exactly what we needed.”
Randle plays many different roles for the Lions. In addition to being a force on the boards she has shown the ability to score inside and drive to the basket. She also has proven to be one of the better ball handlers on the team and often brings the ball up the floor after pulling down a rebound.
But it is her leadership and energy that the coaches love.
“I don’t think of myself as having that much energy, but when the competition starts I just lose myself,” Randle said. “I probably let my emotions come out sometimes, but that’s just the way I am.”
Everything has fallen in place for Randle this season. She is happy to be back close to home and to again be playing a big role on a winning team.
“I actually go to practice with a smile on my face,” Randle said. “I never dread walking through these doors, talking to the coaches or going to he weight room. I can just be myself and play my game here. I love everything about UNA.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.