The college basketball season is barely breaking a sweat and Kentucky freshman Julius Randle has pushed his way into the conversation for college player of the year and the No. 1 selection in next year’s NBA draft.
On a night when three of the five projected top picks in the 2014 draft were on display in Chicago for the State Farm Champions Classic, it was Randle who overshadowed Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. The 6-9 power forward, who turns 19 on Nov. 29, was the most dominant player in the basketball doubleheader at the United Center.
Parker (27 points and nine rebounds) and Wiggins (22 points and eight rebounds) had good games, but Randle had a great game. He scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for preseason No. 1 Kentucky in a 78-74 loss to the No. 2 Michigan State.
Randle shrugged off a slow start by flexing his muscles in the second half, and carried the Wildcats on his broad shoulders. He made eight of nine field goals, all of them inside the paint, and netted 23 of his 27 points in the half. What’s most impressive is Randle did it against one of the most physical frontcourts in college basketball.
”What I loved about him, he gritted his teeth, was ornery and nasty and he wanted to put them on his shoulders,” Izzo said about Randle, who is averaging 24 points and 14 rebounds in his first three games.
”For a freshman, that speaks volumes,” Izzo said. “He completely did that. You could see it and hear him. Tough kid.”
You could sense Izzo has an affinity for Randle, who would easily fit the Spartans’ grit-and-grind style. And Randle’s game is very similar to another power forward Izzo coached at Michigan State — Zach Randolph.
Randle and Randolph — who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies — are cut from the same cloth. Aside from both being lefties, they both have a nose for the ball and they both get better as the game gets more physical. Watch the similarities in their games: