Kentucky freshman Randle set to enter NBA draft

Kentucky forward Julius Randle, who notched 24 double-doubles as a freshman this season, has a slot range of 4-9 in the majority of NBA mock drafts.

Robert Deutsch/Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

In a surprise to few basketball observers, Kentucky forward Julius Randle has opted to enter the June NBA draft, leaving school after a fabulous freshman campaign — both individually and team-wise.

Randle, one of the most touted members of the 2013-14 freshmen class, consistently ranks among the top-eight prospects for the upcoming draft, which includes big-name clubs like the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, Pistons and 76ers in the lottery.

With the young, explosive Wildcats, Randle anchored the UK frontline by averaging 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game — including 24 double-doubles during the season. In the NCAA tournament, Randle posted four double-doubles, while helping 8th-seeded Kentucky upend Kansas State, Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin, en route to a surprising berth in the national title game.

In the NCAA final, Randle tallied 10 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss to Connecticut, which became the first 7-seed in history to capture the men’s hoops national championship.

At 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, Randle projects as a power forward at the pro level, but he also has traits of a nimble small forward — possessing excellent dribble-drive moves to the basket (from 17 feet) and solid passing skills out of double teams.

Randle is the first freshman from Kentucky’s heralded first-year class to declare for the pros. At this time, there’s no word on whether Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, James Young or center Dakari Johnson will return for their sophomore campaigns in Lexington.