When the supposed superstar player is generous in spirit and comfortable in a lead role, it has to help a basketball team.
The Blue-White Game on Tuesday night continued to show that Julius Randle handles well the label of alpha dog. He even threw in a bit of self-deprecation, which can go a long way toward Norman Vincent Peale’s idea of winning friends and influencing people.
With about seven minutes to go in the second half, Randle found himself being dunked on by walk-on EJ Floreal. Adding insult to injury, Randle was called for a foul on the play.
Floreal couldn’t suppress the smile on his face as he lined up at the foul line. Interestingly, Randle had a smile on his face as he playfully nudged Floreal.
After the game when a reporter brought up the dunk, Randle smiled brightly.
“I told him he better not be in the paint,” Randle said with a noticeable lack of menace. “I’ll get him back.”
How did Floreal respond? “Don’t worry about it,” Randle reported. “I’m not.”
That bit of fun seemed like a good sign in terms of team chemistry.
UK Coach John Calipari noted another positive sign. Other than two early free throws, Randle did not score in the game’s first eight-plus minutes.
“What was really good is he wasn’t getting the ball early, and he didn’t (pout),” Calipari said. “He just played, and eventually he started getting it.”
Randle finished with 21 points and eight rebounds. Way too early to fret about the five turnovers.
Calipari stopped short of proclaiming a team with good chemistry.
“They really like each other, but we’ve got a whole season,” he said. “We’ve got to get dinged up a little bit.”
But at first glance, Randle seemed like the kind of teammate others enjoy playing with.