Scoring 1,000 career points in college basketball is a major accomplishment. Being just the 52nd player to do it for your university, one that has a rich tradition of basketball success is even more special.
Kobe Julien has the opportunity to do just that for the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns on Wednesday night when Georgia State enters the Cajundome. However, for a while, it was unclear whether or not the Baton Rouge native would get to this point in his career.
While in high school, Julien played at Madison Prep Academy in Baton Rouge, a Class 2A program at the time. Each season, they were a top team in the class and were always in the conversation for a state championship.
“The best part was just knowing going into the season knowing we were going to win it all already,” Julien said in an exclusive interview with ESPN 103.7 Lafayette. “We went into the season already started talking about the championship game. Everything we did was family-oriented. From the coaches, and staff, Coach Jones to all the players. Everything’s just close.”
Julien didn’t receive much interest from college programs, but he knew early on Louisiana was going to be his choice. His father, Wayne, played for the Cajuns from 1976-1981 and averaged 10 points per game for his career.
The eldest Julien is soaking up watching his son play for his alma mater.
“I am beyond proud that Kobe is having so much success, including getting his Bachelor’s degree and working on his MBA,” Wayne Julien said. “The cherry on top is that he is at the same program as my college career. The city of Lafayette and the University means a lot to me. The fact that he gets to have this experience and have fans from when I played share memories of me with him is fun to watch.”
“I was a bit older when Kobe was born, so he and I didn’t get to play ball against each other. As I was teaching him, I would tell him stories about when I played ball, the moves I did, and how tough I was during the games. As a kid, he might have thought I was making it up, but over the last several years he has been told the same stories by people who witnessed it. Then I get to joke with him and ask, “Didn’t I tell you that already?” It’s been fun and special.”
However, during his senior season, a torn ACL ended his high school career and jeopardized his status.
“The first thing I was worried about was if the coaches were still going to be on my side,” Julien said. “But Coach (Bob) Marlin was there when I woke up from my surgery. So that showed me they were still with me. But once I really got into it I realized that once I redshirt, I have a chance to take this year and learn from it and not waste a year not knowing if I did things wrong. So I just looked at it that way.”
After redshirting his freshman season and rehabbing his injury, Julien came into the 2018-2019 season ready to be a contributor and through the first several games, it appeared he could be. However, a torn patella tendon cut that season short just eight games in.
After that second major injury, most people would’ve hung it up and medically ended their careers. However, Julien stayed determined to play for the Cajuns while using support from his family and the thought of walking away from the game never crossed his mind.
“They were on my side every time,” Kobe said. “They’d know when I was down or having a bad day. They would ask if I needed them to talk to me or if I just needed to get something off my chest. Also, if I didn’t feel like talking about basketball at the time, we didn’t. They were always there to help me get in the right mindset and it helped me.”
“During all of it, Kobe never said or showed any indication that he wanted to walk away,” Wayne said. “His mom (Sandra), sisters (Kristi and Kelsey), niece (Cidney), and I always encouraged him to push through it all. I believe the prayers, love, and support from us truly helped him. He would reassure me that he was okay and tell me to keep my thoughts positive. He only ever expressed that he would sometimes question if he still had it after that last injury at Georgia State and he’s showing now that he does still have it. Through it all, he never mentioned that it was an option to walk away from the game he loves. He was once asked what was his plan B and he answered he is still working on plan A, so he doesn’t have a plan B.”
In the process of getting love and support from his family, Julien was returning the favor to his father.
“Honestly, Kobe gave me strength during those times,” Wayne Julien said. “I’ve been in awe watching my son work so hard to develop his talent and skills over the years to obtain his ultimate goal of playing at the next level. Ever since he was a little boy playing pickup games against grown men at our gym, he has been fearless and determined. So, when he had to overcome those injuries, I saw the same determination and fearlessness.”
After overcoming both of those injuries and a global pandemic, Julien has settled into a strong role with the Cajuns over the last three seasons. Since the 2021-2022 season, Julien has played 72 games for the Cajuns and averaged 11.6 points per game during that span. This season, his average is up to 18.1 points per game, which leads the Sun Belt Conference.
With eight games left in the regular season, the Baton Rouge native is now just 20 points away from being a 1,000 point scorer at Louisiana. Julien also has another year of eligibility on the horizon.
“It may sound a little cocky, but I always knew he could meet and surpass that goal,” Wayne said. “If it wasn’t for the amount of time his recoveries took from him, I believe he would have made it to this point a few years ago. So, to see him still make this achievement is very special and makes me feel exceptionally proud of him. I always told him that hard work pays off and knowing the amount of time he has put in and continues to put in at the gym makes me feel that it was inevitable. Also, knowing what he has been through and his drive to continue to put in the work is exceptional and I am beyond proud of him.”