The last time Julius Randle tried to talk to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ star brushed him off.
The reasons had little to do with Bryant trying to humble Randle as he became a promising prospect during his lone season last year at Kentucky. Or trying to test his toughness. Or Bryant trying to demonstrate his basketball superiority. No, Randle recalled as a middle school student last decade trying to get Bryant’s attention as the young Lakers fan sitting courtside tried to get his idol’s attention during pre-game warmups.
“I was on the sideline and I kept saying, ‘Kobe, Kobe,'” Randle said with a smile. “He wouldn’t turn around. He probably got annoyed with me and he wagged his finger and started back shooting.”
The circumstances have since changed.
After posted a league-leading 24 double doubles with Kentucky, Randle would become teammates with his long-time idol should the Lakers select the Wildcats standout with their seventh overall draft pick. Randle sounded more excited about trying to meet Bryant’s demanding expectations than gushing about teaming up with a player that made him a life-long Lakers fan.
“It would be amazing. I heard Kobe is tough on rookies. But I don’t care,” Randle said Tuesday after working out at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “Just to be in a program like this and an organization like this with great owners and great front office and the City of Los Angeles that expects nothing but championships, what more could I ask for? I’m a little prepared for it because coming from Kentucky, you lose a game, they go crazy. I’m a little prepared for it.”
That is because Randle accepted things that may become necessary in playing with Bryant.
Randle willingly gave up his scoring load with Kentucky for the sake of helping a balanced team filled with one-and-done prospects. He vowed he will continue reducing his defensive deficiencies. Randle prides himself on his nation-leading 24 double doubles that reflected his physical play inside. He has slimmed down to maximize his chances in surviving an 82-game schedule. Randle has demonstrated a dependable outside shooting stroke that will either give Bryant a more open look or a dependable option to ward off double teams. Randle said he worked on all of these elements with Kentucky coach John Calipari to prepare himself for this moment, one that may involve playing with a great player he once annoyed during pre-game warmups.
“Coach Cal did a great job of using me,” Randle said. “When you play with that much talent and that many guys, you’re going to have to sacrifice. You sacrifice a little bit of your game. I’m not worried about it. I can get back to some of the things that I do. Coach did a great job of using me. It’s not about offense. He challenged me in other areas that I think will help me tremendously at the next level. Defensively, I’m playing through whole possessions, having the mental edge and how you attack adversity every day. A lot of things that Coach Cal does gets you mentally ready.”