Five-star Julius Randle chooses UK, becomes 6th All-American in Cats’ recruiting class

By Tom Hurley | @TomHurleyKernel

Every cloud has a silver lining. After a troublesome week filled with two first-round tournament losses and a bump from the NCAA Tournament field, UK head coach John Calipari finally got some good news Wednesday when five-star recruit Julius Randle announced his commitment to UK.

Randle also was considering Kansas, Texas and Florida.

After an official visit to Lexington in September, Randle was considered likely to accept Calipari’s scholarship offer.

The Twitter photo posted by Randle of himself wearing a UK sweatshirt posing with hip-hop star Drake at the UK alumni game had recruiting analysts declaring the Plano, Texas, native was a lock to play for the Cats.

As the weeks and then months following that visit ticked by, the possibility arose that Randle might play elsewhere.

That possibility ended for good Wednesday and Randle now joins a recruiting class that was already ranked No. 1 in the nation before his commitment.

“Kentucky, man,” Randle told Jason Jordan of USA Today. “Every time I told myself that I was going to look somewhere else, it just never felt right. Kentucky is home for me. It’s where I feel most comfortable.”

His athletic ability was displayed in a big way in August when he won the Under Armour Elite 24 dunk contest with a behind-the-back slam that would have challenged Terrence Ross’ winning effort in the 2013 NBA drunk contest.

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward is considered one of the physically strongest players in the Class of 2013.

His sheer physical dominance is what sets him apart from the rest.

Even before the ball is in his hands or he rises above opponents for a rebound, he gives the impression of being a man among boys at the high-school level.

He can drive the lane with either hand and out-muscle a defender with ease.

His competitive nature and high work ethic will fit perfectly into Calipari’s ethos to have a stronger and tougher team both on and off the court.

The prospect of seeing Randle run down the Rupp Arena floor with the likes of Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and Derek Willis will soften the blow to Cats fans following the events of the past week.

Randle’s committment gives UK’s 2013 recruiting class six McDonalds’ All-Americans, the most in college basketball history.

“I don’t know if we’re the best of all time,” Randle said. “That’ll be based on how we play. But we’re really talented. And, yes, we all like each other.”

Add to that the likes of freshman trio Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein stating Tuesday their desire to return for a sophomore season, next year’s UK squad could be filled with starting-quality depth at every position.

That’s before you think about the possibility that Calipari adds either No. 1-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins or 6-foot-10 power forward Aaron Gordon to what is already considered among the best recruiting classes ever seen at the college level.