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By LARRY VAUGHT

Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy thinks Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is an “immense talent” and will be UK’s most important player this year.

“I remember 2008 when Chris Douglas-Roberts was an  All-American at Memphis for John (Calipari), but in the end Derrick Rose was the most important player because he was the greatest talent. The team’s success was rooted in whether Rose could enforce that talent, and he did. Whether or not UK wins the title this year could come down to how great Julius is and is able to become in his year at Kentucky,” DeCourcy said.

Why?

“I think it starts with size and athleticism. His is a very rare combination of those two qualities. He is 6-10, long, physically powerful, extremely mobile and skilled. He is as good a package as you can find. He is not LeBron James, who is best example of what a player’s body could be. But he is in the top five percent of all basketball payers across world when you look at him and see what he brings to the table. It is extraordinary. And he brings confidence and energy,” DeCourcy said.

“I don’t know whether he has the personality Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had. Very few have, or will ever have, what he did but what Julius has is the ability to take over a game. It is easier to take a power forward than a point guard out of the game. If you double him on the block, he can take you outside. If you play him for his shot, he can bounce past you. If leave him open, he can make a shot. There are a lot of ways he can beat you.

“Defensively, he is a great presence. He will have to learn to play team defense, but with the great qualities he has he will be a terrific defensive player and also a very good offensive and defensive rebounder.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

The more you are around Julius Randle, the more you realize how special the Kentucky signee could turn out to be next year.

Consider who he tries to mold his all-around game after.

“If there is anybody, I watch LeBron (James) a lot. Tthe stuff that he does on the court as far as getting his teammates involved while also being an attacker. If anybody, him. Kobe (Bryant) has been my favorite player to watch, but LeBron’s been my favorite player to study,” Randle said.

“Kobe always was my favorite player growing up, but honestly I never really grew up trying to model myself after anybody. I just took a lot of stuff from everybody’s game and kind of made my own.”

And it has worked out very, very well and by this time next year it would not be a huge shock to see Randle in position to be another No. 1 overall NBA draft pick coached by John Calipari.

By LARRY VAUGHT

New Jersey standout Karl Towns  doesn’t get to talk to UK coach John Calipari or UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua often because they are not allowed to contact him directly since technically is still only a high school sophomore even though he has reclassified to the 2014 recruiting class. Instead, Calipari contacts his coach and then information is relayed to Towns, who has already given his verbal commitment to UK.

“Coach tells me what they say and I tell him to tell them hi and wish them the best this year,” Towns said. “They tell me just to run the floor hard and stay positive and do all they taught me (during the summer). They tell me to remember all they told me and I try to use all the assets God gave me and dad and coach Cal taught me.

“Coach O (Orlando Antigua) is a great guy and I love him. But I went to Kentucky because it has the major I wanted, is a great school and has a great team and coaches. At the end of the day, that’s where I feel I can blossom into the player and person I want to be.”

He’s followed Kentucky’s up and down season regularly.

“I watch every game. I rush home to watch on TV or I am on  my phone watching,” Towns said. “I am always up to date on Kentucky and making sure the Wildcats are doing well. They’ve had a hard road, but they will pick it up at the right time. Coach Cal will get them there. He’s just a special coach and will get it done.”

Towns got to experience that coaching first-hand during his time with the Dominican team when he had NBA players as teammates and played against NBA players and college players in exhibition and tournament games.

How hard was it to adjusting to playing against normal high school competition after that summer experience?

“It was very difficult to adjust to high school again. It was so different,” Towns said. “The physicality is so much less in high school, especially in New Jersey where they are very picky about touch fouls. With the Dominican team, I went against LeBron James, Kevin Love and others who were all very physical. I am always a physical guy and to be in high school and not be able to touch anybody is hard. It’s like I am intimidating and they (officials) have to give fouls to kids smaller than me. I have had to tone down my physicality and a lot of the things I did against  NBA players. It just took me a little time to adjust to that, but I was fine by the time the season started.”

Towns plans to join the Dominican team again this summer even though Calipari won’t be coaching.

“I want to see who the coach will be, but I want to go out and work hard and lead the team to the Olympics (in 2016). It is so much fun playing with those guys. It’s great to play with competitive people like that. They make sure you play hard and get better. We learn from each other and how to fix flaws in our game and have fun doing it for us and our country,” Towns said.

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