Julius Randle wasn’t picked until 7th in this year’s NBA draft, but there were lots of basketball people who think he was the top talent in the draft. The 6’9″ 250 pound athletic marvel dominated his front line collegiate opponents most every night and he was only a freshman. Freshman, of course, is as far as he went as a Kentucky Wildcat. Randle entered the NBA draft after almost winning a national championship–a finals loss to Connecticut was his only tournament blemish.
But now he’s on Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers–and while he’s still an athletic marvel, he sometimes looks like a guy just one year removed from high school. People sometimes say the great college teams could compete against the cellar-dwellers in the NBA, but Randle’s journey proves that’s nonsense. He’s going to be great. But in his first pre-season he’s admitted that the new level is hard. “Practice is much harder,” he’s said. Yesterday Lakers coach Byron Scott, who will need Randle to improve swiftly, said about Randle’s play: “I thought he was lost…I thought the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, he was better, but I thought in the first half the game was way too fast for him.” A game too fast for Julius Randle–that’s what the NBA is. Next time you want to marvel at something, marvel at that.