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Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Confident Randle shows Lakers his stuff

By Dave McMenamin

After bringing in a dozen prospects for their first predraft workout session, the Los Angeles Lakers invited Kentucky big man Julius Randle in for a solo show on Tuesday.

The 6-9, 250-pound 19-year-old said that he showed enough during the Wildcats’ run to the NCAA championship game -- averaging 15.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 10. 4 rebounds along the way -- that making him face off against other players just wasn’t necessary.

“There’s no reason for me to go up against anybody,” said Randle, who had 24 double-doubles in 40 games for Kentucky during his freshman season. “You’ve seen me all year. I think teams’ biggest thing is they want to see my skill and not see me banging (against other players). I had the longest college season out of anybody in the country.”

Julius Randle
Julius Randle is projected to be a top-ten pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Randle showed NBA 3-point range capability during the portion of his workout open to the media, knocking down outside shots with ease -- albeit with a bit of hitch in his left-handed shot.

It’s an aspect of his game he rarely displayed in college -- he shot just 3-for-18 from 3-point range for the entire season -- and something he wants to prove he’s capable of doing at the next level.

“I’m very versatile as far as things I can do on both ends of the floor,” said Randle, when asked if he saw himself as more of a traditional back-to-the-basket big man or someone who will be able to spread the floor. “And I think I can play in many different styles. I don’t think there’s one style that’s going to fit me and what I’m going to do. I think teams are going to see my versatility and know that they can use me in many ways. Whatever way is best for the team.”

ESPN’s Chad Ford has Randle going No. 10 to Philadelphia in his latest Mock Draft 8.0. Randle was once considered a top-five pick, but a Yahoo! Sports report surfaced that Randle’s right foot may require surgery to replace a pin that was inserted after breaking the foot in high school.

“I met with the best foot doctor in the country and he said he wouldn’t do anything with my foot, so there’s no scheduled surgery or anything,” said Randle, adding that he would be ready to play in the summer league in July. “I feel healthy, athletic. I’m moving great. No problems recovering and I’m ready to go.”

Randle said he thought a team might have planted the story.

“I think a lot of it is coming from maybe some teams (whose) motive is maybe for me to fall in the draft to them, or certain teams may want me,” said Randle.

While Randle’s foot might not end up being a problem, his competition might end up being the bigger hurdle for him to clear before he can land in L.A.

The Lakers have another group workout planned Friday where they will invite back a pair of point guards in Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton for a second look. Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, who cancelled on the Lakers’ last group workout after initially being scheduled to appear, is also invited, along with several other undisclosed players.

One team source was particularly impressed by Smart, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com that his “tenacity was off the charts” at his first workout with the Lakers. Not to mention, Ford has the Lakers taking Smart at No. 7.

Whether the Lakers end up picking Smart, Randle, or somebody else, the team is leaning towards keeping their No. 7 pick rather than trading down in order to acquire multiple picks, according to a source with knowledge of their thinking.

While it’s widely believed that there is a gap in the talent available after Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker go off the board, the Lakers feel there is another gap between the player they have rated 10th versus who they have at 11th and below, so it’s not like they could flip their pick for say Phoenix’s No. 14 and No. 18 picks and still come out in with a player they are totally sold on.

Which brings us back to Randle. The guy certainly seems pro-ready. He played for a coach in John Calipari who runs NBA sets in college. Physically, he is extremely gifted, as he was measured for a 38-inch vertical leap during his Lakers workout (Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, another freshman big man the Lakers previously worked out, was measured as having a 37.5-inch vertical) and his body looks more sculpted than it did in college (Randle told reporters he’s dropped 5-10 pounds while putting on muscle at the same time).

And there is a certain star quality to him, which was on full display as he was surrounded by approximately 30 media members after his Lakers workout and was equally adept in taking on a league issue, flashing his big smile, showing confidence in his abilities (when asked to compare himself to the rest of the big men in the draft he said, “I feel like I’m the best one ... I don’t put myself second to anybody.”) or even spinning a yarn.

“The first time I went to a Lakers game I was probably in like sixth or eighth or seventh grade and I had courtside seats,” Randle recalled. “Kobe (Bryant) was warming up and I’m on the sideline and I’m going, ‘Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!’ And he wouldn’t turn around. I guess he probably got annoyed with me. I go ‘Kobe!’ and he (slapped my hand). Then he just turned back around and started shooting. I mean, that was enough for me. I said I wasn’t washing my hand for a year.”

All these years later, he could be the one the Lakers end up hand-selecting.