Normally when a high school recruit announces he'll be attending the University of Kentucky, it comes as no surprise.
But this one wasn't such a sure bet.
Julius Randle, ranked No. 2 by Rivals, No. 3 by ESPN and No. 5 by Scout.com, made his decision to become a Wildcat instead of a Jayhawk, Gator or Longhorn. The addition of Randle, a talented combo forward with big-time NBA upside, gives Kentucky three of the consensus top-five recruits, making that six five-star recruits in total.
With a party that's nearly filled to capacity, many expected Randle to boogie somewhere else— somewhere where he'd have a more featured role on the dance floor.
Evan Daniels @EvanDaniels
Two conversations with college coaches this morning. One says Kansas. One says Kentucky for Randle. Both in the know. lol3/20/2013, 2:16:34 PM
But Randle saw an opportunity to play for coach John Calipari and Kentucky, a team that's likely to be favored as your 2013-14 national champions.
Along with Randle, Calipari reeled in the highly-touted twins from Texas, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, a point guard and shooting guard respectively who are both ranked the best at their positions.
Joining Randle and the Harrisons is James Young, a talented wing and top-ten recruit, along with Darkari Johnson and Marcus Lee, two more big-time frontcourt players.
To sum it up, Kentucky has the No. 1 point guard, the No. 1 shooting guard, the No. 1 power forward, the No. 1 center, and that's not including Young and Lee, a top-10 guy and a top-20 guy.
Randle makes this the greatest preseason recruiting class ever, with the keyword obviously being preseason. They haven't played a game yet together. Right now they're a bunch of names on paper with rankings associated with each—high, elite rankings.
Whether or not this turns out to be the greatest class ever will be decided on the court, where coach Calipari must mold several individual talents into one destructive unit.
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
Julius Randle picking Kentucky is huge news. But can we wait til the games start to proclaim this the greatest class ever?3/20/2013, 6:01:18 PM
But with regard to plucking talent from the high school circuit and assembling it into a college roster, you won't, and may never find a class like this one.
Last year's Kentucky class was pretty spectacular. Calipari reeled in three top-ten recruits, with the prize being Anthony Davis, followed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, top point-guard Marquis Teague, and topped off with Kyle Wiltjer.
The whole idea of landing all the top guys, knowing you might only have a year to make it work before they're off to the NBA draft, is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Though Kentucky will never drift too far from the spotlight regardless of how they perform, a year like the one they had in 2012-13 is always a possibility.
Then again Anthony Davis and company nearly ran the table the season before.
But getting back to next year, Julius Randle isn't the type of guy who's going to need a year or two to marinate and watch the upperclassmen do their jobs. He'll be an instant-impact guy and go-to option for points in the half court.
I've heard comparisons to Chris Webber and Al Harrington, to my favorite, Jamal Mashburn—scorers with power-forward bodies who can play face-up basketball on the perimeter or physical basketball inside.
With Randle, Calipari has assembled the greatest recruiting class of all time, but it won't mean a thing unless he gets his players to buy in. Egos will have to be put aside and individual roles will drastically change from what they were in high school.
If these guys are cool with that, then the sky is the limit for the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats.