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UK freshman Julius Randle: “I think we can win and learn how good we can be” against Michigan State

Click on the photo of Julius Randle to hear him talk about facing Michigan State Tuesd

Click on the photo of Julius Randle to hear him talk about facing Michigan State Tuesday.

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Now comes the game every Kentucky fan, and probably every UK player if they were honest, has been waiting for.

Kentucky dominated Northern Kentucky 93-63 Sunday as one would expect a No. 1 team with superior size, athleticism and talent to do. But UK won’t have all those edges Tuesday in Chicago when it plays Michigan State, a No. 1 team in some preseason polls.

This game will let UK’s talented freshmen test themselves against older, talented players who will bring the toughness Michigan State coach Tom Izzo depends and UK coach John Calipari knows his team will see often this year.
Izzo said this would be an “epic” game after his team’s opening win and said that Kentucky looked like “an NBA team” with its size at each position.

Julius Randle certainly is playing like a NBA player. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much but he led UK with 22 points, 14 rebounds and three assists — all team highs. Calipari would like to see him do more — “If I get 20 rebounds, he will want 25,” joked Randle — and the freshman will get his chance to showcase his talent on the national stage against Michigan State.

“I know they are a tough, physical, hard team,” Randle said after Sunday’s win. “It’s going to be a big step up. I think as a team we are getting better, but Tuesday is going to be a war. We are willing to fight. Coach doesn’t think we are ready, but he’s just trying to challenge us.”

Calipari explained why facing No. 2 Michigan State will be “unfair” for his young team.

“This is not like you’re going to steal, sneak by. You’re going to have to ball,” Calipari said. “For us, it’s a bar of where we are right now. We’ve got a long way to go.”

True, but Randle didn’t seem overwhelmed by the theory that UK is too young for this game just two games into the season.

“I am not buying into it. We are playing the same game,” Randle said. “Guys on our team are experienced, too. I am not buying into the experience thing. It will be a war.”

Calipari says his team will “win or learn” against the Spartans.

“I think we can win and learn how good we can be,” Randle, who got poked in the eye early Sunday and briefly had to leave the game, said. “They are always known as a physical team. It will be a battle. But I love competition. We all do.”

Sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, who had seven points and 11 rebounds Sunday, just smiled when told of Randle’s remarks.

“That’s why he’s our leader. When he goes, we go. I am glad he’s looking at it like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “You can’t let the hype get you in a game like this. You want to be the first to smack them in the mouth. They are going to try and bulldog us because we are young. We just have to have the right mindset and play.”

Kentucky did Sunday and easily beat a team that was within 30 seconds of winning at Purdue Friday. Kentucky made shots early, dominated the boards and had the issue settled with a 26-point halftime lead.

Calipari found faults — not enough assists (12), missed assignments, etc. — but he knows every flaw will be exposed Tuesday in the Champions Classic.

“I think what they will try to do is beat us up the court, fly, and we don’t fly every time they’re going to get layups or open 3’s. That’s how they play,” Calipari said. “They’ll grind us and we will learn. Crisis brings about change. Meetings and talking and tape and all that, no. Are you ready to change now?”

The coach also wonders how UK will respond to adversity or a sustained Michigan State spurt, something UK didn’t encounter in two easy wins to open the season.

“How do we respond? We don’t know  yet until we get in those wars and that game is one of those,” Calipari said. “I just wish it wasn’t so early. I wish I had another two weeks with my team so we could have a better kind of showing.”

Again, Randle isn’t worried about that.

“I am not worried about other teams or seeing who is No. 1,” Randle said. “We just have to get better and play like we can. If we do that, we are going to be fine no matter who we play. It’s not just another game in some ways, but it is in other ways. We’re excited for the game, but we’re not overwhelmed or anything. If we just play, it will be fun.”

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14 comments

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  1. King Ghidora

    Randle could be the next Lebron IMO. He’s got the skills and the size to do it. I don’t see a single weak part of his game right now except possibly defense and he can learn to do that. He plays pretty good D. He’s just not at the same level on defense as he is on offense IMO. If Wiggins is better than he is I don’t know how. I think he’s about as good as it gets when it comes to being a basketball player. Yes he needs to polish his game but he’s a freshman. There’s plenty of time for him to work on his game.

    Up until now I had thought it was a toss up between Cousins and Davis as to who the best basketball player Cal has brought to UK. Now I think it’s Randle period. I think he’s better than both of those guys. He’s better than Wall too. He has the entire package and that’s just impossible to beat. I’ve been watching some Kings games on tv because of the fact that Patterson, Cousins and Chuck Hayes all play for them now. Cousins has become one of the best players in the NBA. If his stamina was better he would be amazing. But some things just have their natural limit and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Randle is like Cousins only he rarely gets tired. Keep in mind that Cousins is averaging about 25 ppg right now plus 10 rebounds. But he’s the Kings’ first scoring option. Their offense is ran through Cousins. Randle is sharing the ball with a whole bunch of great college players (many of which will be great pro players soon) so he doesn’t get the number of shots Cousins does.

    When Randle has the time in developing his body the way the pros do now he will be unstoppable. I think he could well be the best player to ever wear the blue and white and that’s saying a whole lot. He can score inside, outside, in the seams, and on pull up jumpers. There’s nothing left. He has it all. BTW we all laughed at Boogie for saying he wanted to play guard for the Cats. Well he handles the ball a lot now and brings it up the floor and shoots 3′s very well. He could have played guard for UK. But of course Cal needed a center to go with Orton.

  2. John

    Grounded Confidence.

    That is Julius Randle.

    And that is good.

  3. Theresa

    John, I like that “Grounded Confidence” and totally agree that it fits Randle. He is a man and goes out to do a man’s work each and every outing. That is so refreshing to see after last year. If Poythress is also clicking for a full game, then we would have extreme strength x2! (I will say that Poythress brought it in the first half as well, but then seemed to blackslide somewhat.)

  4. slater group

    I am impressed with Randle, I think he is a great basketball player and a nice young man, but he is no Andrew Wiggins. We are still very early in the season, too early to judge Randle as better than Wiggins. By the end of the season the chant you will hear and remember is ” Rock Chalk Jayhawk”!

    1. Jason Back

      y troll on a UK forum, I mean don’t you ppl get enough of that at all the televised UK games at all the UK highlights I mean give it a break. As for Randal being better than wiggins I do believe he is. I have seen both of them play in the NCAA and on the Blacktop, Randal has things that Wiggins don’t, he much stronger, imo he handles the ball better and he’s 6″9′, he rebounds better he even shoots better. Wiggins may slash better but Randal is pretty darn good at that as well. Wiggins has 1-2 things he’s does extremely great where as Randal has 5 things he’s great at. I mean don’t get me wrong Wiggins is an outstanding player but there’s no need to wait till the end of the season, the case has been made and the verdict is in, Julius Randal is the best player in CBB 2013 bar none!! He will win POTY

    2. bosshogg24

      Randle is better than Wiggins, Randle is a man and will be the # 1 draft pick!

      1. larryvaught

        Bosshogg24, we think alike

    3. wesman

      i dont know what andrew wiggins your talking about lol the kid is too passive has no fire

  5. UKkathy

    Julius is right-on. We definitely CAN win tomorrow night. I expect them to win. Heck, the guys need to get his mindset that we ARE going to win each time we lace up the sneaks. And if they fall short, well, tomorrow is another day and they will continue to grow and get better. Good luck guys. You can do it. GO CATS!

  6. Bob

    I also agree Randle will be the #1 NBA pick and i think Kentucky has much to much horsepower for M.S. WCS and Alex P are playing great too . I think 6-8 point victory over MS

  7. Bluecat

    I can’t wait to get this party started here in Chicago. Go Cats!!

  8. King Ghidora

    “Grounded Confidence”????? I think what I said was grounded. You haven’t heard me say such things about other UK players even though some remain the best young talent in the country. Randle is the best. You haven’t heard me say that about others. I don’t use such terms unless I see it. My view is grounded in 45 years of UK basketball. I’ve seen over half of the games they have ever played (on tv of course). I’ve watched game films from previous eras too. I believe my views are grounded as well as anyones can be expected.

    1. John

      Not sure I know what you are referring to. I used the term “Grounded Confidence” to describe Julius Randle. Not anything that you wrote. When you hear him speak, he is very humble and knows there is much for him to learn. He knows where his ability places him.
      I use Kenny Walker to measure great power forwards. I have only seen two (now three) at UK that compared to Kenny Walker, of course I am talking about early in their career. First and keep in mind that after three or four games Terrence Jones was thought to be the next great power forward, same can be said for Alex Poythress. I think (hope, really hope) Julius Randle is going to be the next Kenny Walker. Jones and Poythress both went flat after their first few appearances in a UK uniform.
      Here’s hoping that Julius Randle will not.
      Here’s hoping that Julius Randle will maintain and improve upon his early showings.

  9. John

    “We win the SEC (in football), and I heard this rumor going around, and I went to (Kentucky president) Dr. (Otis) Singletary, who was a real buddy of mine. We played golf all the time. I said, ‘Hey, Doc. I hear they’re going to build a dorm for basketball players only. Is there any truth to that?’ ‘Well, these guys come up with this and it’s going to cost $6 million. They can’t raise that.’ I said, ‘Doc, they’ll raise it in five days.’ I was wrong. They did it in three — all those coalminers up there and all those old boys.

    “We almost started becoming competition to basketball because we were filling the stadium up. Because you know what? I believe it strongly. People love football. They like the tailgating. They like the cheerleaders. They like the band. A football game is really fun. In basketball, you go in there — but that’s their deal up there, you know? You’ve got North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Duke, and that’s it. For those guys, that’s their deal.

    Curci said Kentucky’s devotion to basketball played a part in the Wildcats’ recruiting difficulties: “(Tennesee coach) Johnny Majors would say (to prospective players), ‘I hear you want to go to Kentucky, and I wish you would. It’s a beautiful place. You’ll like it there. And I hope that when you’re there, you’ll look at where the basketball players live.’”

    What it takes to sustain success in college football might be more than Kentucky is willing to give, he said.

    “People haven’t yet accepted the fact that you have to have a commitment – a complete commitment – from the janitor to the school president,” Curci said, “and I’m not quite sure they’re ready to do that.”

    -Former UK football head coach Fran Curci (last UK head coach to have winning record against SEC)

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