Badgers have hands full with Kentucky's Randle

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By Michael Hunt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, April 5, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas--Kentucky coach John Calipari mentioned Friday that Julius Randle, his big and spectacularly gifted freshman forward, gets the Shaquille O’Neal treatment from opposing defenders.

Knees and elbows to the body, pokes in the face.

“Well, it’s definitely hard,” said Randle, UK’s top NBA prospect at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds. “It’s frustrating. But I think when you win, it kind of takes the place of that.”

On Saturday night in the Final Four, it will be Wisconsin’s turn to find ways to hack away at Randle.

“I mean, it’s frustrating, but you can’t put much into it,” he said. “The biggest thing is that you try to learn how to affect the game in different ways, and that’s what I’ve learned this year.”

Randle has been a double-double guy (15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds) in his first and likely only season with the Wildcats. The most similar player in terms of body style the Badgers played this season was Marquette’s Davante Gardner, who scored 16 points in the UW victory.

But Gardner had just three rebounds and got to the free-throw line just once. Randle specializes in cleaning the glass.

At least the Badgers have some familiarity with Kentucky’s big guy. Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker was Randle’s teammate on the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National team that won the gold medal at the FIBA championships two years ago.

Coincidentally, Florida coach Billy Donovan, also involved in the Final Four, coached Dekker and Randle.

“Julius obviously was a huge catalyst for us winning, probably our best player out there,” Dekker said. “Freak athlete. Big guy. Nice kid.

“It was good to see him have a good year. I just remember what we were able to do together. It will be good to play against him.”

And he’s going to be a handful for the Badgers.

“His strength, his ability to put it on the floor and get to the rim and finish on shots,” UW coach Bo Ryan said when asked about Randle’s strengths. “For a combination of strength and size and the way he hits the glass, he’s as good as anybody we’ve seen.”

Calipari was asked if college basketball’s block-charge rule benefited Randle this season.

“Well, he’s being played like Shaq was played in college,” Calipari said. “He’s got three guys on him. Teams want six sets of eyes on him.

“So you could talk about charge-block, but not when you’ve got three guys playing you and they’re being physical and they’re bumping. Then it’s like, ‘Well, he’s big enough, he should be able to take that.

“So I wouldn’t say that it’s had that kind of impact on him. But what it’s done is it’s made the other team say you’ve got to guard him with two or three guys, if that makes sense.”

No one player is going to stop Randle, but the Badgers might try to match up early with Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky doesn’t match up physically, but the Badgers might be able to keep the ball out of Randle’s hands.

As much scrutiny as Wisconsin will give Randle, he’s getting almost as much from the local media because he is from Dallas.

“I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy this time on my team. I really don’t think about being in my hometown or whatever. I’m just trying to have fun.”

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