Julius Randle finally made the call on Wednesday, thrilling Kentucky fans by picking the Wildcats over Kansas, Florida and Texas on ESPNU.
The 6-foot-9 Randle is the record sixth McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American to pledge to Kentucky for 2013, following Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and James Young. All told, Kentucky now has seven recruits, including Derek Willis.
“Cal just reloads,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv, referring to Kentucky coach John Calipari. “If his freshman this year outside of [Nerlens] Noel remain in school this team may be better the the team that won the National Championship last year.”
There had been rumors that Randle and the Harrisons didn’t get along, but that proved not to be an issue for Randle.
“I felt like the system at Kentucky was a great system,” he said on ESPNU. “They have a lot of great players going in there, so you’re going to have to battle.
“I think like they did the year before the team’s been a unit. I play USA Basketball with a lot of great players so I think I’ll adjust well. I think it’s the best fit for me. It’s where I was in my heart, I wanted to be at Kentucky.”
Randle joked that he was out to dinner for last night’s Kentucky loss to Robert Morris in the NIT, “but I heard about it.”
One NBA scout told SNY.tv that Randle reminds him of a “young Lamar Odom,” and he has also been compared to Wayman Tisdale. Projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com, Randle is expected to make a major impact in what will likely be his only year on campus.
After sustaining a foot injury in November, Randle returned to the court at the end of the season to lead his school to the TAPPS 5A title.
He averaged 28.8 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in five state playoff games, including 32.5 points and 15.5 in the state Final Four.
After initially being left off the McDonald’s list, he was officially added March 6.
Randle’s decision came just hours after three key Kentucky freshmen announced they expected to return to campus next season, meaning Kentucky could not only be loaded with new talent but also very experienced next season, reminiscent of their 2011-12 team that included a slew of great frosh, plus two sophomores and one senior and won the national championship.
Following Kentucky’s opening-round loss to Robert Morris in the NIT, Alex Poythress, a 6-7 forward, and Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-1 center, said they expected to come back, as did 6-4 guard Archie Goodwin.
With Poythress, Cauley-Stein and probably sophomore Kyle Wiltjer coming back to join incoming frontcourt players Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and Derek Willis and now Randle, the frontcourt will be crowded but Randle isn’t worried.
“To be able to battle with those guys every day in practice is only going to make me better and help me prepare for the next level,” he said. “Playing with great players was a plus for me, it wasn’t a negative at all.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins, the top player in the Class of 2013, remains on the board and is still considering Kentucky, Kansas, Florida State and North Carolina.
He has set no date for his announcement and may just Tweet it out when ready.