On Tuesday, Julius Randle announced he would enter the NBA Draft. It was by far the most predictable of the eight decisions we’ve been waiting on, but it wasn’t one taken lightly, according to Julius. In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Julius said he enjoyed his time at Kentucky so much that he actually considered coming back, despite being a projected top five pick. Julius spoke fondly of the season, and how he and his teammates became “brothers” by the end, coming up one game short of their ultimate goal. In fact, that great story Aaron Harrison so famously spoke about? Julius says he’ll tell it to his grandkids one day:
“It was, like I said, an experience I’ll never forget. Just all the adversity that we went through all year, and to finally have the opportunity to play for a national championship and to see how we came together during a postseason run, it’s just something I’ll never forget. And like I said, it’ll always – I’ll grow old one day and I’ll be able to tell my children or grandchildren about something that I did when I was 19 years old. It’ll always be a memory for me.”
Randle is now John Calipari’s twelfth
one-and-done suceeder-and-proceeder at Kentucky, joining an elite group of freshmen, all ten of which have been drafted in the first round. Six of those were top ten picks, and Julius will surely be the next. He led all players in the country in double-doubles this season with 24, the second most by a freshmen in Division I history, behind only Michael Beasley with 28. All of that while being double and tripled teamed more than any other UK player I can remember. Cal calls it getting “Shaq’d,” and says that because of that, he believes Randle will be an even better pro than a college player. I’ve gotta agree.
Even five years into the John Calipari era, saying goodbye to players after only one season hasn’t gotten easier. It’s a cruel process, especially for a fan base as passionate as the Big Blue Nation. To us, these players are family, and it seems like it’s only when we really get to know them best that it’s time for them to head out the door. Until the rule changes, sadly, that’s just how it goes. But, over the past five years, I think the BBN has also learned that goodbye isn’t really goodbye. Players make a point to come back to campus, not only to get their degree, but to help the program and Calipari out, and reconnect with fans. James and Julius are good kids, and I’d expect to see them both at pro camps and alumni games down the line.
In fact, Julius couldn’t have been more complimentary of the program and Calipari in the press conference, calling Cal his “biggest supporter,” and thanking him and the rest of the staff for the “countless hours” they spent working with him, “night in and night out.” Randle added that when Cal told him that playing at Kentucky would be “the hardest thing you’ve ever done,” he didn’t really believe him, but once he was “in the fire,” he found out it was true, and more than anything, it’s helped him prepare for what’s next, on the court, and in life: “I think that’s really grown me as a person more than even as a basketball player, I think you can say, because I learned how to deal with things and I can apply it to life as well.”
Want to wish Julius good luck in person? Here’s his autograph tour schedule:
Thursday, April 24 – Wildcat Wearhouse – Ashland 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Friday, April 25 – Hillbilly Days – Pikeville – 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 26 – Hillbilly Days – Pikeville – 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 26 – Lexington Sports Card – 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 27- Elizabethtown Mall – 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 29 – Tin Roof – Louisville – 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
On Tuesday night, Randle taped an interview with Matt and Ryan, which will be air during the morning show (live from spring practice). I can’t wait to hear Ryan ask him about his cramps.
Here’s the rundown on the latest rumblings in each player’s decision:
ALEX POYTHRESS: Poythress met with Calipari on Monday afternoon, and from what we’ve heard, the meeting went well. Our Alex Poythress expert, Ryan Lemond, says he still expects Alex will be back because that’s the decision Alex wants to make. Kyle Tucker, who previously had said Alex’s decision may be contingent on the Harrison Twins because of concerns about playing time, said on Tuesday that’s not the case anymore, and that Alex’s meeting with Cal cleared up any issues about that. The bottom line is, Alex isn’t even on most mock drafts, and could not only improve his stock by coming back, he can get his degree. Of those that are left, that makes his decision simplest of all to me.
DAKARI JOHNSON: Dakari’s a bit of a different case, considering he’s projected as a solid second round pick, with some scouts saying he could slip into the end of the first round. However, Dakari’s upside is so big that he can improve his stock more than any of the others by coming back. He needs to decide whether he wants to work on his conditioning and skills at UK or most likely, in the D-League is he goes out. We’re hearing his decision will come on Wednesday.
THE TWINS: We know this is true: on Tuesday afternoon/evening, the Twins and their dad had a meal somewhere in Lexington. You laugh, but the Twins’ decision is by far the most closely followed of the bunch, to the point that we got several “Twins spottings” throughout the day, which really only told us this: their dad came back to Kentucky with them. Their dad is very close to them, even coming to Lexington during one point of the season to help them through some struggles, so this isn’t surprising to me. At some point on Tuesday, the Twins had their meeting with Cal, and outside of that, there’s no use guessing what will happen. They’re not talking.
The Spring Game is coming…
One crappy thing about these draft decisions has been it’s bumped the Spring Game to the side, but over the next few days, we’ll try to shift our focus to football as much as we can. As I mentioned earlier, Matt, Ryan, and Drew will be live from spring practice in the morning. During the first hour, we’ll hear Julius’ interview and talk about the draft, and in the second hour, they’ll shift the focus to football and talk to Neal Brown and Mark Stoops.
See you then.