This season’s freshman class has been widely regarded as one of the best classes we’ve seen in recent memory. What I find most impressive about this freshman class is the depth they’ve demonstrated all season long. But there’s one freshman in particular that has elevated himself to not only one of the best freshman in the country but one of the best players in all of college basketball–Julius Randle.
Ever since the beginning of the season, Randle has been a force to be reckoned with as he has led the Wildcats to a 21-6 overall record and an 11-3 mark in conference play. In his 27 games this season, Julius has averaged 15.7 points per game and just over 10 rebounds per game. Throughout the entire season, Randle has showcased his unbelievable talent and ability to take over a ball game and deliver when his team needs him the most.
Randle wasted no time making his presence known early on as he registered seven consecutive double-doubles to open his collegiate career. During that span, Randle averaged 19 points with a shooting percentage just short of 55% and just over 13 rebounds per game. When you really think about it, those are phenomenal numbers for a true freshman to put up in the first set of games of his career. What was most astonishing wasn’t how well Randle played but how dominant he proved to be. In his first game, he put up 23 points on 46% shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds as the Wildcats easily took care of UNC-Asheville, 89-57.
Since his hot start, Julius has registered seven double-doubles, including three of his last four games. Throughout the season Randle has exhibited both his power and finesse while quickly elevated his draft stock. Although he has delivered a lot of great performances in his first year on campus his best yet came back in December against Belmont. Randle scored a career-high 29 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Kentucky took care of the Bears, 93-80. Not only did he put up big numbers on the offensive side of the ball but he was extremely efficient. In that game, Randle shot 80% from the field and visited the charity stripe a career-high 19 times (converting 13 of his 19 attempts). He’s proven that not only can he put up big points for his time but that he can do it efficiently as well.
One aspect of his game that I believe is greatly undervalued is his ability to get to the free throw line. This year, Randle has attempted at least six free throw attempts in 16 of his 27 games, including nine games in which he attempted ten or more free throws. Julius’ ability to get to the free throw line at will is a testament to his aggressive nature on the court and how easily he can take over a game. You have to be a special kind of player to be able to control the momentum the way Randle has been able to do this year. Pair that with his strong shooting ability and tenacious mentality on the glass, you’ve got one of the best players in the country.
As we get closer and closer to the postseason, a team’s success becomes increasingly dependent upon it’s best player. In order for Kentucky to play up to it’s potential in March, Randle is going to have to continue to improve every aspect of his game–especially if they want a shot at the conference championship. There’s no doubt in my ind that Randle has lived up to expectations this year but the postseason is a whole other world. But I truly believe he has the skill, mindset and determination to make that next step in his career.
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