Julius Randle: In warmups, the 6-9, 250-pound forward looked the part of a veteran. He would finish a drive to the basket, head to the back of the line under the hoop and peer around the arena with a scowl on his face that suggested he was ready to do damage.
Unfortunately, Randle didn’t come out of the gate looking to take over; he was deferential to teammates because Brandon Dawson – State’s 6-6, well framed, lockdown wing – and Co. had game-planned to keep the Wildcats out of the paint,. They did a remarkable job until Randle realized that no one on the court could slow him down – except himself.
“I give him a lot of credit. We did a heck of a job in the first half,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, one of the finest game-planners in the land. “We really did on him, too. We game-planned it just like we wanted to: We kept him out of the paint. John (Calipari) made a couple nice adjustments toward the end of the half, started spreading it and opening things up a little bit more and then they started going into him. We said they were going to at halftime. We didn’t double. We haven’t had that much trouble over the years. Sometimes we double on the dribble. With him, we should’ve doubled when he came onto half court.”
Although his shooting motion has noticeably improved since his prep school days, Randle still has work to do to make defenses fully honor him from the perimeter – which would make his forays to the rim even tougher to stop.
Randle also was 9-of-15 from the foul line. In time, with repetitions and a full adjustment to the speed of the game, Randle will knock down more open shots. He’s a competitor and will figure it out.
Until then, teams will dare him to beat them from the outside, because they know he will have their number if they allow him into the paint.
“What did I love about him?” Izzo asked.”He gritted his teeth. He was ornery and combative and he wanted to put them on his shoulders. For a freshman that speaks volumes. Nobody else did that. He completely did that. You could see it in his face, in his body language. Tough kid.”
What to watch for: There aren’t many players who have the height, size, strength, quickness and touch that Randle possesses. Even fewer have these things and a few unstoppable go-to moves. Randle’s best move is a spin into a soft lefty floater or powerful jam at the rim. At the college level, teams will employ a “Beat him to the spot” mentality to pick up cheap fouls. Randle can work on that as Kentucky’s next four games are against Robert Morris, Texas-Arlington, Cleveland State and Eastern Michigan.
Jabari Parker: He didn’t start off scorching hot but he stepped up when he senses it is time to take over. Parker missed his first three attempts but connected on 6-of-7 to close the half, including 4-of-5 from the arc and this fantastic hop-step layup in transition traffic:
All in all, Parker outscored the foul-ridden Wiggins by 19-6 in the first half.
“I think it’s remarkable that a kid who’s 18 can come in here to his hometown, playing against Kansas and he was sensational,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Imagine the emotion that you’d use?”
This may be nitpicking, but how could Parker have further assisted his team to victory?
“He wasn’t just worn out towards the end because of the way the game was played, he was emotion-ed out,” Krzyzewski said. “He was terrific and that’s how you grow. I think he handled everything extremely well. Especially if you’re in your second game, you use a lot of emotion in a game like this and I think it hits you at certain times during the ballgame and you have to get another emotion.”
Other than being emotionally spent, Parker was thoroughly impressive, as he scored from all three levels offensively and proved he was more than capable of guarding players on the perimeter or in the post.
This was a learning experience for Parker as he embarks on the rest of his freshman season and beyond. It’s important to get hyped up, but you’ve also got to keep a reserve of emotion for when you really need it.
When March rolls around, Parker will remember that.
What to watch for: Parker had 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting (4-of-6 threes) and 10 rebounds in Friday’s 97-64 victory over Florida Atlantic. Expect Parker’s numbers to continue to look similar this week vs. UNC-Asheville and Vermont. On Dec. 3, Parker gets a test from Glenn Robinson III and Michigan at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The matchup should draw plenty of scouts, as this is a real chance for both players to make another statement.
Let’s be clear here: Wiggins is not the next LBJ; he’s not the playmaker James was at the same stage in his career.
What Wiggins boasts over James at 18 years is simple: The ability to score from all three levels with an ease that defies his youth.
I still remember the first time I saw Wiggins as a junior with Huntington Prep, in New Jersey, against legendary coach Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony’s Friars. In the first quarter, Wiggins hit a catch-and-jab 3-pointer from the top of the arc, a pull-up from the elbow, got to the rim for a dunk and scored two more baskets.
The 6-7 swingman’s ability to light up a scoreboard in a hurry is nothing short of breathtaking. It was on full display against the Blue Devils in the second half, when he had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
It should be fascinating to see how Wiggins handles the attention opposing defenses throw his way this season. As the season goes on, expect him to turn the pressure defense he faces into solid ball movement leading to assists and hockey assists.
What to watch for: Wiggins has four games in the next two weeks against mediocre competition. He will likely continue to build upon his impressive performance against Duke while further adjusting to the speed of the game at the college level. After that he will play in his first true college road game at Florida, followed by quality opponents New Mexico and Georgetown in Lawrence. Amongst other things, Wiggins, his coaches and his teammates will use this period to further figure out how to best utilize his unique blend of talent, skill, basketball IQ and athleticism.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring front office professional and shooting coach who writes columns SheridanHoops.com. At night time he can be found at STATS LLC / SportVU, the NBA’s new game-tracking software, as an Overnight Data Analyst. Follow him on Twitter @JB_For_3_.