Over the years, the multitude of elite level talent brought into Rupp Arena by John Calipari has meant that Kentucky has had the difficult yet pleasant task of juggling the roles of its numerous talents. This season is no different, and while the minutes of a rich talent pool that includes Andrew Harrison, James Young, Aaron Harrison and Willie Cauley-Stein will have to be carefully managed, the Wildcats will only go as far as Julius Randle can take them.
In the 6-foot-9, 250-pound freshman power forward, the Kentucky Wildcats have a relatively polished product, a stark difference to the other big-name recruits currently suiting up.
Not only that, but in the future NBA lottery pick, the Wildcats possess an inevitable James Naismith Award candidate, a superstar at the college level that will decide how far the Wildcats will go in their quest for the NCAA Tournament championship that has become an all-or-nothing expectation for the program.
Unlike many recently hyped post prospects, Randle does not possess the kind of freakish athleticism that former collegiate talents such as Blake Griffin, Derrick Williams, Andre Drummond and Davis possessed. Although Randle is by no means a stiff athletically, it is the Swiss army knife-like array of talents that lie at his fingertips that elevate him into the elite echelon of college basketball talent.
A tenacious, persistent and high-energy style of play is combined with the highly polished post moves that make him so tough to check for opponents. That tenacity can be seen regularly seen in the manner in which he follows up his shot attempts. Whether he chooses to dissect interior defenses with baby hooks, up-and-under drives, spin moves or short jumpers, Kentucky can be sure that if the first shot doesn’t go in, there will be a good chance that the second one does.
Aside from the post skill that the standout freshman possesses, an equally intriguing aspect within his arsenal is the versatility that he shows in regards to his uncanny perimeter talents.
With Kentucky possessing many players that rely on either cementing themselves into the post or slashing to the basket, the ability of Randle to space the floor with his jump shot will become critical to keeping defenses honest. Furthermore, as a keen passer of the basketball and skilled slasher in his own right, it adds yet another worry for opposing defenses to game plan for and makes the jobs of his teammates all the easier.
Overall, the future lottery pick is a complete package as a player who is able to defend his position, rebound the basketball, space the floor and finish inside. These skills have already put him right alongside Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker in the conversation for the NBA’s future wave of superstars.
With the aid of Calipari, a coach so familiar with developing elite talent rosters into successful, title-worthy teams, the presence of Randle as his crowning jewel will fuel the Wildcats into the kind of great team that we’ve all grown to expect from the program.