Julius Randle, a five-star power forward from Plano (Tex.) Prestonwood Christian Academy, committed to the Kentucky Wildcats today. He announced his decision live on ESPNU and picked Kentucky over the Kansas Jayhawks, Texas Longhorns, and Florida Gators.
Randle sat out most of his senior season with a broken foot. However, he returned in time to lead his high school, Plano PCA, to a second consecutive Texas TAPPS State Championship. That return convinced the McDonald's All-American committee to grant him a waiver exception to play in the game, a notable achievement. A five-star prospect in the 2013 class, Randle is one of the most gifted forwards in recent history. He is almost certainly a "one-and-done" prospect that will be picked in the high lottery in the 2014 NBA Draft.
He has drawn comparisons to versatile 4's like Jamal Mashburn and Chris Webber. Per the 247 Composite Rankings, Randle is ranked 2nd nationally, trailing only Huntington (W. Va.) Prep's Andrew Wiggins. Burnt Orange Nation's Peter Bean has a great scouting report on Randle, emphasized by this money quote: "Ridiculous. On every level: ridiculous."
For Texas, this is just the latest blow in what has been an extremely trying season. Last fall, reports emerged that the Longhorns were considered a favorite in Randle's recruitment. Rick Barnes and the Longhorn coaching staff have been recruiting Randle seemingly forever, and the close proximity, level of comfort, and chance to be a local star all sounded very appealing to Randle.
Missing on Randle stings more than just about any lost recruitment in the Rick Barnes era. Randle was looking for a final reason to come to Texas, and the Longhorns simply could not convince him that winning was achievable in Austin.
The bottom line, as Scipio Tex so recently pointed out: Barnes has created a Standard that he is no longer reaching. What's the expectation? Wins and talent. In terms of performance, the last two years have been the worst in Barnes' history at Texas. Meanwhile, Barnes has increasingly been shut out of the Texas AAU scene, and the players he has recruited have shown little indication of exponential improvement in Austin.
For the past two years, Texas basketball fans have been hoping that Julius Randle would be the salve to heal both wounds. It's hard to stomach that such a dream scenario will never come to pass.