It may sound weird to say this, but Julius Randle was the most important player on the floor for the Wildcats in Saturday’s win over LSU despite the fact that he managed just eight points on 3-for-8 shooting.
He guarded Johnny O’Bryant, the LSU big man that torched the Wildcats in their first meeting in Baton Rouge, forcing him to take 25 shots to get his 20 points and turning him over five times. He switched onto Anthony Hickey on regulation’s final possession, keeping him from penetrating and forcing him into a tough, fadeaway jumper. He grabbed 15 rebounds, one of which led to his game-winning lay-in with 3.9 seconds left.
Randle is Kentucky’s best offensive weapon, which means that his value may lie in being a bit of a decoy offensively while setting the tone for the Wildcats with his effort and his hustle. He may be the star, but he needs to play like the glue-guy that only gets minutes when he gets floor-burns.
It seems like he’s embracing that.
“It is what is (on the scrutiny). I don’t care about that. It may or may not be true, but I’m playing basketball. I didn’t come here to be liked. I came here to win a championship,” Randle told Larry Vaught of VaughtsViews.com.
Last week, Jason King of Bleacher Report published the story of four days behind-the-scenes with Kentucky’s basketball program.
It’s well worth the read, with plenty of insight into what it’s like to be a basketball player representing Big Blue Nation. But the most interesting passage is this quote from Calipari during a film session with Randle.
“Look at yourself!” says Calipari, raising his arms. “Look at what you’re doing! Normal human beings can’t do that! If you play like that and go 2-for-9, we’ll win!
“The question is whether you can go 2-for-9 and still play like that.”
I guess he can.