Kentucky freshmen ready to shine

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
1:00
PM ET


LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, as he wrapped up some work in his office above the Kentucky practice gym, John Calipari was distracted by the sound of a basketball pounding against the hardwood.

When the coach looked out his window and down onto the court, he saw freshman forward Julius Randle putting himself through conditioning and shooting drills. Randle repeated the routine the following morning before participating in the Wildcats' team practice that afternoon -- his third workout in 24 hours.

"He was cramping at the end of practice, Calipari said. "No kidding. '[I thought] kid, stay off the court a little bit.'

"He's a very driven young man."

Randle and his teammates don't have any choice but to put in extra work.

The Wildcats, after all, are dealing with unprecedented expectations as they prepare to open their season with Big Blue Madness tonight at Rupp Arena. Seven months removed from last season's loss to Robert Morris in the NIT, Kentucky has been tabbed as the nation's No. 1-ranked team by virtually every preseason publications thanks to the addition of six McDonald's All Americans.

UK's recruiting class is already being compared to Michigan's "Fab Five," and as many as five Kentucky players have been projected as first-rounders in this summer's NBA draft. That includes Randle and James Young, both of whom have a chance to be the No. 1 overall pick, according to Calipari.

"I think on this team we'll have seven guys get 25 [points] or more in at least one game, maybe two," Calipari said. "They have that much ability."

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