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November 10, 2013
Randle seeks improvement as NKU visits
Most would consider Julius Randle's first collegiate game a success.
The Kentucky freshman had game highs in points (23) and rebounds (15) in the Wildcats' 89-57 win against UNC Asheville Friday night. Randle showed why he was one of the top-rated players coming out of high school, and why many are predicting him to be one of the top players in college basketball.
But he didn't show John Calipari enough.
"I got on Julius -- he had 15 rebounds but he could have had 20, 21, 22 rebounds, so why not do that?" Calipari said. "Why not open up with a 20-20, because when the shot went up he stopped playing. He stopped."
Whether or not Randle played with effort for a full 40 minutes is up for debate, but it didn't impact the outcome of the game.
But the win and the double-double weren't enough for Randle, who will look to improve when the Wildcats host Northern Kentucky on Sunday.
"I just got to keep getting better," Randle said. "I'm nowhere where I should be, the team is nowhere where we should be. It's just the grind of the process but we'll be all right."
Never in Randle's young basketball career has a coach been so demanding. He's used to coaches telling him how good he is, and how much he dominated.
"I love it," Randle said of Calipari's approach. "He's going to be on me like that every game. So what? I'm accepting the challenge, and I know it's only going to make me better. He's not doing it to break my confidence or bring me down. He's doing it because he wants me to be the best. If I have a coach like that on my side, I can't ask for anything more."
Calipari is less focused on how much Randle dominated than on how much he could dominate.
When he dominates, it gives UK its best chance to dominate.
"But again, he stopped a bunch today, and you may say, here's a guy that had 21 and 15, and you're like, 'He didn't do enough,'" Calipari said. "No, for us to be what we're trying to be, we've got to be a bunch of guys out there that are playing the entire time they're on the court."
Randle's teammates consider him a player who's never satisfied. The freshman only was 6 of 12 from the field, and although he did miss some easy shots in the paint, he generally was able to clean up those misses and score off one of his five offensive rebounds.
But fellow freshman Marcus Lee said Randle won't be satisfied with his own game, until he's satisfied with the team as a whole.
"He doesn't care how he's doing; he knows the team really needs to work on stuff and that's why he's kinda disappointed," Lee said. "He knows that we have to work harder and get through things."
Calipari is known for tough love and demanding the most from his players, but he wasn't all doom-and-gloom about Randle's eye-opening performance.
"Well, when he's going after it and he's getting the ball by people and getting that third and fourth play around the goal, there's no one better," Calipari said. "He can also score, and how is he shooting free throws? So what do you think you'll tell him? Get fouled."
In a game that featured 69 free throws, Randle shot a game-high 13, hitting 11. The Cats shot just 62.5 percent from the line as a team, so Randle was one of the few bright spots from the charity stripe.
If Calipari wants Randle to get fouled and get to the line, that's no problem.
"Yeah, I've done it my whole life," Randle said. "It's not anything new to me, I just have to keep making my free throws."
Randle was surprised to see the rest of the team struggle from the free throw line.
"I think the biggest part of free throws is conditioning," Randle said. "They do a good job of conditioning us when we have individual workouts, and as well as getting condition we're shooting free throws in the meantime."
But Randle isn't blaming himself for the poor free throw shooting. He thinks he can be great.
"I don't see why I can't be," he said. "I don't think I'm going to miss."
He's also as confident that UK can reach its goal and be the team Randle wants it to be. But it starts with him.
"We're getting better every game but we still have a long way to go," Randle said. "We're nowhere near where we should be."
But while Randle is being hard on himself, and so is his coach, other players, and coaches noticed what he's accomplishing.
And they're impressed.
"Julius Randle is a specimen, he is very, very good," McDevitt said. "Rarely do you see a guy with that kind of size and athleticism and skill level. Coach Cal is going to have fun coaching him."