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October 29, 2013
Randle showing growing comfort on perimeter
Marcus Lee's head, had crossed over Lee for another slam. He'd poured in 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds and generally put on a show Tuesday in Kentucky's Blue-White Scrimmage.He had dunked on teammate
But by the end, Julius Randle was mostly hearing about the play he didn't make. The one where walk-on guard E.J. Floreal dunked on him and drew a foul.
"Basically, karma," Randle said teammate Andrew Harrison told him. "It's about time the tables turned on you."
See, Randle dunks on people a lot.
And he's doing it with even greater frequency of late. Not just in his Blue team's 99-71 win against the White Tuesday night.
It happens in practice with some frequency.
John Calipari admitted at the start of practice that Randle, a 6-foot-9 250-pound power forward, was struggling at times to adjust to a new role that featured him primarily on the perimeter.
Randle wasn't playing with his usual swagger, Calipari said.
On Tuesday, it seemed to be back.
He twice turned in poster plays over the 6-foot-10 Lee. He missed a dunk on a baseline move so spectacular that Calipari celebrated it even without the finish.
"I don't expect anything less from him," teammate Willie Cauley-Stein said. "So you gotta try to figure out how to stop it. I mean, good luck."
Randle was confident he'd find a perimeter rhythm.
Despite his size, he often brought the ball up the floor for his high school and AAU teams. Randle has quick feet and good vision -- "I look at him and say, 'Man, he can pass," Calipari said -- and he's faster than he looks like he has any right to be.
Defensively, Randle's been matched with sharpshooter Derek Willis in practice, and Willis' ability to put the ball on the floor or quickly let fly with a three-pointer has helped Randle hone his perimeter skills at that end.
"I've always felt like I can guard on the perimeter," Randle said. "But in high school, you being the biggest person, you kind of have to guard the post or whatever. But I've always thought -- especially how I know I can move -- I felt like I could always guard the perimeter."
And when he committed to Kentucky, he knew Calipari planned to put all his perimeter tools to use. On media day this month, Calipari said he "could play him at seven feet (from the basket) and try to win college games," but that he'd rather put Randle in the best position to both help UK and succeed in the NBA.
"I knew he was gonna prepare me for whatever's best for me and whatever's best at the next level," Randle said Tuesday night. "I knew he was preparing me for the future, and that's why I came here."
But just because the adjustment was expected doesn't mean it always was easy.
Randle is and long has been a freight train in the open floor. He showed that on Tuesday, too. But playing on the perimeter in college means "being under control," he said.
That's a work in progress. But Randle is progressing. And doing it quickly.
"I just got to play with more pace, read defenses more -- if they back up, shoot the ball -- and just be comfortable," Randle said. "Biggest thing is, Coach is letting us make mistakes and learn from it, so it's been an easy adjustment."