Before his first public dribble as a Kentucky player, Julius Randle sparked comparisons to an alpha beast, Shawn Kemp, and a runaway freight train. What?! No leaping tall buildings in a single bound?
To express his reaction to such hyperbole, Randle refers to another superhero: Spider-Man. More precisely, Spider-Man's Uncle Ben, who said, "With great power comes great responsibility"?
Former Kentucky All-American Kenny Walker helped fuel the Randle-enthusiasm by comparing him to Kemp. He said Randle was UK's most gifted freshman in terms of skill and jaw-dropping athleticism since Kemp, who set the one-and-done speed record by coming and going without ever playing for the Cats.
"That's amazing," Randle said of a comparison that covers 1988 to the present. "And with that comes responsibility and expectation. That's a lot of hard work that needs to be put in, too."
Randle seems entirely comfortable in the casing of superstar. His quick and easy smile suggests confidence. He steers clear of showy arrogance, yet also avoids contrived humility. He's good and he knows it. We'll all know it soon enough.
"I've never tried to play like anybody or modeled my game after anybody," he said. "I've watched a lot of people take a lot of things from past players. A person I watch a lot is LeBron (James) as far as he has size, strength, speed and all that stuff."
Something else makes James appealing. "His understanding of the game, his IQ. His ability to to create," Randle said. "How he gets better every year."
Randle also draws inspiration from another NBA superstar: Kobe Bryant.
"It's amazing how skilled he is, and his mentality is ridiculous," Randle said.
"He is a killer," Randle said. "He has no remorse for anybody. He's trying to take your heart out every time he steps on the court."
Isn't that the reputation Randle brings to Kentucky?
"Exactly," he said with a smile.
To ask Randle if he might have a pang of sympathy for an opponent is to temporarily stump the freshman.
"I've never thought about that, honestly and truly," he said. "That's never crossed my mind."
Speculation about the 2014 NBA Draft has Randle projected among the first two or three picks. Not that UK Coach John Calipari believes Randle is immune from basketball weakness. There are areas he can improve.
"He wants to sit on the perimeter and be like a guard," Calipari said. "He's got to go to his right hand more. You know how everybody's going to play him: Make him go right. He can, but he's more comfortable getting to his left."
Meanwhile, Calipari will go into this season with a Randle comparison of his own. He hopes to see a bigger version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose relentless competitiveness helped Kentucky win the 2012 national championship.
"Two years ago, Michael dragged us to that level as a team," Calipari said. "That's what I'm asking Julius to do. Forget everything else. Just do that right there. We'll help you with all the other stuff. You don't lose that."
Uniform number: 30
Height, weight: 6-9, 250
Hometown: Dallas, Texas.
High school: Prestonwood Christian
Online: Watch a video interview with Julius Randle.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.