- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With the highest pick in franchise history since selecting James Worthy No. 1 in 1982, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted another power forward in Kentucky's Julius Randle with the No. 7 selection on Thursday.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man averaged 15.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 10.4 rebounds in his freshman season, leading the Wildcats all the way to the NCAA championship game.
"It's the organization that I wanted to go to," Randle said while on a conference call from New York with reporters covering the draft at the Lakers' practice facility. "I couldn't be a in a better situation for me, and I'm just really excited to get things started there."
There is speculation that Randle could need surgery on his right foot to correct a pin that was placed incorrectly in his foot when he broke it in high school. Randle, however, told reporters after his workout in Los Angeles that he recently saw a foot specialist who cleared him to play without any further surgical procedure.
"I'm healthy. I have no problem with my foot," Randle said. "Whether (the Lakers) want to do something (to correct his foot) or not, we'll see. But I'll have that conversation with them when I get there."
Those injury concerns, however, may have cost Randle a higher spot in the draft.
"I think I should've went higher for sure, but, you know, the teams that passed on me will regret it," Randle told ESPN's Jay Williams.
The Lakers sounded comfortable with Randle's bill of health. Randle broke the fifth metatarsal, located on the outside of his foot. It is considered a common basketball injury.
"Obviously, it's a well-known fact that he had surgery about 18 months ago and he's been cleared," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We will monitor it going forward. With any injury, there's always the possibility that it can be reinjured and certainly it's something that we considered in the selection process, but we just felt that his talent was such that even if he did have to miss a period of time -- with that kind of injury it could be six months, if necessary -- it would not impact his career and at his age, even if he does reinjure it, there's no reason why he can't play 12-14 more years at a very, very high level."
Randle was confident that if surgery is required, it would sideline him for less than the six-month timeline that Kupchak alluded to.
"I know if I do do a surgery or anything, I'll be ready way before the start of the season, by training camp," Randle said. "But we'll discuss what's best for me and what the risk is."
Randle, 19, was one of five one-and-done college players selected with the top 10 picks in the draft.
The Lakers were also enamored by another freshman in Indiana's Noah Vonleh and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton, who were both still on the board when L.A. drafted, but ultimately went with Randle, who impressed the Lakers' front office during his solo workout leading up to the draft.
In particular, Randle turned heads with his tenacity in a game of one-on-one against Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen, followed by two-on-two against members of the Lakers' support staff.
"Once he realized what was going on, his competitive juices really started to flow and it was very impressive what kicked in," Kupchak said.
"I just really felt good playing there," Randle added. "It was a tough workout, but I think I really had a good showing there, which is why they were really comfortable with taking me."
Randle said the Lakers had him ranked higher on their draft board than No. 7, but they told his representatives at the beginning of the night that Randle would be a "perfect fit" if he was still available when it was their turn to pick.
"He's got big-time skills," Kupchak continued. "He can put the ball on the floor. He can drive. He can get to the rim. I think he's been criticized with his jump shot a little bit, but we feel with repetition, that's not going to be a problem at all."
Randle shot just 3-for-18 from 3-point range in 40 games at Kentucky. He said that would change at the next level.
"I'll be able to play all over the floor," Randle said. "As far as only shooting 18 3s, some of that was what I sacrificed in college. But I shot the ball really well in the Laker workout and they were really impressed with that. So, I think I'll be able to play all over the floor."
That type of attitude from Randle has impressed the Lakers.
"The bottom line is that he plays and competes at a very, very high level," Kupchak said. "He loves contact."
Kupchak also joked that L.A.'s superstar, Kobe Bryant, would give Randle the rookie treatment.
"Although I don't expect Kobe to talk to him until January, I think he'll like him," Kupchak said with a smile.
On the contrary, Bryant welcomed his newest teammate on Twitter with open arms.
- Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) June 27, 2014
Randle said he also received a congratulatory text from Bryant, who is currently vacationing in Greece.
"I grew up a huge fan of Kobe," said Randle. "He was always my idol, my favorite player growing up, and now I have a chance to pick his brain and learn a lot from him."
Kupchak echoed the same appreciation that Bryant did.
"We're very pleased to have Julius," Kupchak said. "He had a great workout with us, a great interview. We've watched him play as close as anybody this year, and we think he has a chance to be a heck of a professional player and we're excited to have him in Los Angeles and in uniform."
Randle said he would be available to play in the summer league, but Kupchak said that would only occur if L.A. was able to sign Randle to his rookie contract before the Lakers' summer-league schedule begins July 11 in Las Vegas.
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.