Kentucky freshman sensation Julius Randle must embrace his role as the alpha dog and driving force behind the Wildcats if the storied hoops program is to fulfill expectations in 2013-14.
Randle, who leads Kentucky in scoring (17.9 PPG) and rebounding (12.1 RPG) through the team's first nine games this season, wasted no time becoming the face of John Calipari's young squad. But after two early losses, including Friday's 67-62 loss to Baylor in Arlington in which he attempted just 10 shots, it's time for the 6'9", 250-pound forward to take on a greater leadership role.
That's not to say Randle needs to start preparing pregame speeches for his teammates. But if the Wildcats are to overcome their lack of upperclassmen, experience and veteran leadership, they'll need Randle to touch the ball more often and become more demonstrative out on the floor when he isn't.
After all, the 19-year-old Dallas native is shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor this season. So more often than not, Randle's touches are turning into points and positive possessions for Kentucky.
Sure, Kentucky's other talented freshman are capable of leading the way offensively. But no one has come close to being as consistently dominant and reliable as Randle, who has shot 50 percent or better from the field in every game thus far.
He even recorded eight consecutive double-doubles to start the season.
Clearly, Randle is Kentucky's best talent and best hope to make a deep tournament run in March. Therefore, it's time for the early-season National Player of the Year candidate to embrace his alpha dog role and ensure that his teammates are constantly looking for him every time down the floor.
Consider Duke freshman Jabari Parker, who is leading the Blue Devils in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots this season. Parker is averaging 15 shot attempts per game, which accounts for nearly 27 percent of Duke's total shot attempts as a team.
Meanwhile, Randle is averaging just 10.6 shot attempts per contest, amounting to 19 percent of Kentucky's total shot attempts as a team.
Given his talent and level of consistency, there's no reason he shouldn't be touching the ball and looking to score more often. But Calipari can only do so much from the sideline. It'll be up to Randle to reinforce the game plan to his teammates, demand the ball and keep Kentucky's offense on schedule.
Randle is off to a phenomenal start this season and has quickly become Kentucky's best all-around player. But there's a difference between being a star and an alpha dog. And if the Wildcats are going to take the next step in 2014, he must embrace his new role.
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