On Monday, power forward Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood Academy) picked up the phone and called Baylor, Duke, North Carolina and Oklahoma State. Those four programs did not make the next round of cuts for the nation’s No. 3 overall prospect in the ESPN 100.
However, six programs did make it to the next round and remain in the mix to land Randle, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound power foward. Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma remain.
This weekend, Randle will take his second official visit. The Florida Gators host him. Randle’s connection to Florida was crystalized last summer when Gators coach Billy Donovan had Randle on the United States' under-18 national squad.
You have to believe that Randle is going to attempt to make the most of his likely singular year in college. That means the pursuit of a national championship. Not everyone on his list is built for that type of run. Florida's recruiting class and transfers who are sitting out, combined with Randle's existing relationship with Donovan, makes it a formidable foe that hasn't received the same attention as some of the other names on the list. Obviously, this is a significant weekend coming up.
Randle’s first visit was to Kentucky on Sept. 15. According to Jeff Webster, Randle’s mentor, no other official visits have been scheduled.
Trimming Duke and North Carolina is big news. North Carolina's home visit last month drew plenty of media attention, and Randle clearly was a priority. The Heels getting sliced from the list stands out more than Duke not making the cut for that reason. Programs, when recruiting elite-level guys, don't publicize priorities, but it certainly looked as if UNC was further down the road with Randle than Duke, while the Blue Devils had made No. 1 overall prospect Jabari Parker their go-to-guy. All we know for sure now is neither is getting Randle.
The Wolfpack had a hook that neither Duke nor UNC had: family connections. Randle and his family are close with Pack freshman guard Rodney Purvis and his mother. So far, that connection, plus coach Mark Gottfried’s pursuit of Randle, has gotten the team this far and just boosted it onto a shorter list.