Elite 24 brings together rival UK recruits

broberts@herald-leader.comAugust 24, 2012 

  • Under Armour Elite 24

    When: 7 p.m.

    TV: ESPNU

    Where: Venice Beach, Calif.

Nobody has coached University of Kentucky basketball recruit Julius Randle longer than Scott Pospichal.

The Team Texas Titans head coach has been with Randle since fifth grade, watching him grow from a kid who was "pretty good" for his age into a 6-foot-9, 225-pound bull of a player who's ranked by some analysts as the best prospect in the class of 2013.

Pospichal has also had a front-row seat for Randle's rivalry with the Harrison twins, fellow Texans who are expected to commit to Kentucky in October. The three players, all top-five recruits, will be teammates Saturday night at the Under Armour Elite 24 game in Venice Beach, Calif.

Pospichal can't wait.

"That will be really interesting. It really will be," he said. "Sometimes the twins can get a bad rap because of their competitive nature. ... They're very competitive. But if that goes well and they share the ball and try to make it about the team and not about them ... and that goes for Julius, too ... that could be really interesting."

Randle also has Kentucky in the top tier of his list, which includes Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and several other major programs. He's spent the summer downplaying rumors that he doesn't want to play with the Harrisons at the next level. The prospects have a complicated relationship, Pospichal says, that dates to fifth grade.

The Titans were the upstarts. The Defenders, who the Harrisons play for, were the established program.

"Understand, when we first started playing in the fifth grade, it was the Defenders. They were the big brothers," Pospichal said. "The first year we played them they beat us like we stole something. They were the hurdle we had to get over."

He said the Defenders defeated them two more times in sixth grade, before the Titans finally broke through with a victory in Maryland later that year. The teams split eight games over the next two seasons and then didn't play again until this summer. The Defenders won that matchup.

Pospichal says the competitive feelings have always been there. As for personal animosity, he doesn't see it. And he doesn't think the past will have an effect on any of the recruits' future decisions.

"They're all tremendous. They're elite players," he said. "I don't think there are issues there. At the end of the day, there's mutual respect around people who have accomplishments. Doesn't mean there's love, but there's respect. And respect goes a long way. Respect who they are and what they do and there's a lot of success that will follow that pattern."

Like any player of Randle's caliber, the goal is to be successful in college and then go to the NBA after one season. John Calipari has had 15 NBA Draft picks in just three seasons at UK. Eleven of those players have gone in the first round.

Pospichal described Randle's college choice as a "business decision."

Kentucky, he says, is in the business of sending players to the NBA.

"You can look at a lot of really, really good programs," he said. "But at the end of the day, what do the elite of the elite want? They want to win. But, more importantly, they want to go play at the next level. They want to play in the NBA. In the last three years, who's done better than that guy? Nobody."

Pospichal said it's too early to call Kentucky the outright favorite in Randle's recruitment, which the coach says probably won't be decided until after the college basketball season.

Another recruit in Elite 24

UK recruit Stanley Johnson is a late addition to Saturday's game. Johnson, one of only five 2014 prospects with a scholarship offer from Calipari, will replace the injured Jermaine Lawrence. UK is actively recruiting at least 10 players in the game.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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