Julius Randle is focused. The Kentucky forward isn't worried about trying to outshine fellow freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker or how next year's NBA draft is setting up. He just wants to beat Michigan State in the star-studded Champions Classic.
Randle is off to an outstanding start for the top-ranked Wildcats, which won their first two games in blowout fashion against overmatched foes. He's averaging more than 22 points and 14 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the floor.
The level of competition is about to take a major step up against the second-ranked Spartans. The battle of the nation's top two teams is the first of two marquee games Tuesday night and will be followed by Parker and No. 4 Duke taking on Wiggins and No. 5 Kansas.
Given the amount of star power playing in the Champions Classic, it's no surprise Randle was asked about his first true foray into the college basketball spotlight.
Larry Vaught of VaughtsViews.com passed along the rising star's comments, and he didn't seem overly concerned about the long-term impact.
When asked about Wiggins and Parker, Randle said he was far more concerned about beating Michigan State.
"I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about getting the win. Coach puts me in great positions to showcase myself, but at the end of the day I want to win that game bad."
He was pressed further about Wiggins, who's currently viewed as the likely top pick in next year's draft, but he wouldn't take the bait. Randle says he hasn't even thought about that type of stuff.
"I honestly truly haven't really thought about it, to be completely honest. I'm so focused on this team and what Coach expects of us, I haven't even thought about it."
Randle went on to say Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been challenging him on a consistent basis, and it's unlike anything he's been through in the past, but he already notices himself getting better.
That's the biggest key moving forward.
The NBA draft issue is one that's going to follow him all season. Tuning out the extra noise—especially this early in the season—is paramount to making sure he plays at the highest level possible. Everything else will take care of itself later on.
Facing Michigan State will be one of the toughest tests he will face all season. Above all else, it will be a good measuring stick to see exactly where he stands right now and what areas need improvement in the coming months.
It's a positive sign that he's worried more about his own game and helping Kentucky win than things outside of his control like Wiggins and Parker. Calipari has plenty of experience coaching top NBA prospects, so that probably helps Randle's cause.
With the distractions pushed aside, expect another strong showing from the Wildcats' star freshman against Michigan State.