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Calipari calls Randle a “dominator,” praises Johnson’s improvement and says he is “sold” on Hawkins

Dominique Hawkins, Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle have officially signed to play basketball at the University of Kentucky beginning in the 2013-14 season, head coach John Calipari announced Thursday. The trio joins fall signees Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and James Young to form the consensus top-ranked class in the nation.

“The thing I like most about this group is its competitive spirit and its will to win,” Calipari said. “These guys are All-Americans and award winners, but more importantly they’re world champions, national champions and state champions. They know what it takes to win. The size and talent of the group will allow us to have tough, hard-nosed practices which will carry over to the games. I’m excited for the opportunity to coach this group.”

Hawkins is an in-state player who hails from Richmond, Ky. The guard was named the 2013 Kentucky Mr. Basketball and is the 17th player in UK history to claim the honor. He directed Madison Central to the state championship and captured most valuable player honors after averaging 20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game throughout the Kentucky Boys Sweet Sixteen. Hawkins is rated as the No. 44 point guard by 247 Sports. Rivals and Scout rank him as a three-star player.

He joins Derek Willis as the two state-of-Kentucky signees. Both will take part in the Derby Festival Classic Friday.

“I kept hearing about Dominique from Marquis Estill and my good friend Dr. Robert Palmer,” Calipari said. “When I watched him play, lead his team, and play with a will to win and fight, I was totally sold. At the Sweet Sixteen, he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game – when it was winning time – everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and they won. The last player who was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball and won a state title in the same year was Darius Miller. He went to two Final Fours, won a national title and is now playing in the NBA. My hope is Dominique will be on the same path.”

Johnson is a 6-foot-10 center from Brooklyn, N.Y. He played his senior season at Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla. Johnson is rated as the No. 11 overall player by ESPN and the top player at his position. Rivals ranks him as the No. 9 overall player and Scout lists him at No. 18. Johnson led his high school squad to a national championship at the National High School Invitational where he claimed MVP honors after logging 18 points and eight rebounds.

Johnson was a McDonald’s All-American as well as a Jordan Brand Classic selection. He notched 12 points and five rebounds in the McDonald’s game, while pouring in eight points and snagging four rebounds at the Jordan Classic. In addition to his high school accolades, Johnson suited up for Team USA Basketball’s U17 squad in the summer of 2012 where he averaged 20 points and five boards a game for the world champions.

“Dakari’s improvement over the last year and a half has been phenomenal,” Calipari said. “His ability to be a true low-post threat adds an important piece to what our team will really need. He’s patient when he gets the ball on the block and has a great understanding for how to use his size for a kid his age. Dakari is a great student and a great kid. He’s won a high school championship, a world championship with Team USA, and he said he wants to win a national championship with us and an NBA championship. That statement says a lot about the type of winner he is.”

Randle is a 6-9 forward from Plano, Texas. He helped lead Prestonwood Christian Academy to three state titles including one his freshman year and back-to-back titles in junior and senior seasons. The nation’s consensus top power forward is ranked the No. 2 overall player by Rivals, the No. 3 overall player by ESPN and the No. 5 overall player by Scout.

The McDonald’s All-America selection posted 11 points and seven rebounds in the annual all-star game last week. He earned co-MVP honors of the Jordan Brand Classic game with 19 points and seven rebounds. Randle played in the FIBA tournament with Team USA’s U18 squad where he averaged 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. In his final three high school contests he poured in 34 or more points and 15 or more rebounds in each contest.

“Julius is another hard-working player who is a great student and person along with being a dominator on the court,” Calipari said. “He has that will to win that the players I’ve had who have become special have all had. That motor will be important to our success next year. Julius has the skill set to be an inside-outside guy for us. He has the ability to put it on the floor and beat guys off the dribble, but he’s also got the toughness, size and ability to score against bigger defenders. At the end of the day, he’s a true leader whose personal drive is off the charts.”

The class of 2013 joins returning players Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer who combined for 949 points, 40 percent of UK’s offensive output in 2012-13. The trio also accounted for 515 rebounds or the equivalent to 41 percent of the team’s total rebounds.

The spring signing period runs from April 17 through May 15.

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  1. Larry Pup

    This is icing on the cake. UK is on track to get it done for 2013-14. I am so glad they all are Kentucky Wildcats. Coach Cal is the greatest recruiter in the nation, and we got Hawkins on the team to boot. I am more than ready to watch em play. Go Cats. Your turn!!!

  2. Katbluefan

    It’s good to be a KY Wildcat Fan and listen to all the cry babies complain about how Cal get the 5-Star recruits. The grass is Blue in the Bluegrass State.

  3. King Ghidora

    I love hearing them complain about Cal signing one and done players even though their team tried to sign those players and couldn’t and their team has their own share of one year players. I have to laugh every time I see some joker complain about Cal taking one year players when they team they support is doing it too. Of course the facts don’t matter to those people. They’re just jealous and nothing short of losing all that talent to their team will make them happy. :)

    I love hearing them talk about how the team did badly this year too saying you can’t win with young players even though the Cats did that just last year and they will do it next year most likely.

    But the ones I really love are the ones who say Wiggins should go to North Carolina and avoid that “cheating Cal”. None of them seem to realize UNC is right in the middle of the biggest academic scandal in NCAA history (Gregg Doyel said that) topping the scandal of – you guessed it – Florida State. Of course the NCAA will bury the whole scandal (they always do) despite a mountain of evidence and despite them having already sanctioned the UNC football team for the same thing. They know the basketball team had players enrolled in those fake classes too but they are doing NOTHING about it. And ESPN hasn’t even mentioned it at all but they did spend a whole day slamming Auburn for an allegation that one grade got fixed. Anyone who thinks there is no bias in the media or the NCAA should have their head examined. Here’s that story if anyone is interested:


  4. TheProfessor

    This new class has the studs that can get the job done in their only year of college basketball, but it also has building blocks for future years. I believe this demonstrates Coach Calipari’s climb of his own learning curve, and the beneficiary of that learning will be Coach Calipari, the UK Program, and the Big Blue Nation for years to come.

    I really like Randle and Johnson. We all have read about the exploits of the Harrison twins, but Randle was a man-child in the all star game I watched a few days ago, and Johnson, as Calipari notes, is further along that previously advertised. Put him in competition with Willie every day, and both of those guys are going to present major problems for opponents, creating space for Randle, Poythress, and the guards to operate.

    I am with everyone else, I can’t wait to see Calipari play with the pieces of this new team.

  5. King Ghidora

    It should be fun to watch for sure Professor. They have so much talent there will be no more jamming up the middle so players like Alex can’t score. Double teams will be suicide against this team. And trying to get players in foul trouble will be pointless (as long as they don’t somehow end up playing in Bloomington – they foul out the starting team and the reserves up there when they need to).

    If Wiggins shows up in a Cat uniform I can see this team having a real shot at not losing any games. That would be seriously special.

  6. Anonymous

    Love this team. Come on Wiggins, we want you. What an awesome team. GO CATS!

  7. Toicat

    No question about it, UK has some great players coming on board to the point where Coach Cal could have the best bench in the NCAA. Great problem to have for once. I’m excited for the coming season to say the least . If by some chance the Cats land Wiggins, the chances of hanging #9 will go up exponentially!

    Congratulation to Nerlins & the Louisville Cardinals!

  8. Ron B

    Hey King,
    You’ve got it right!!


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