Boise State basketball braces for Kentucky’s fabulous freshmen

Quartet of freshmen leading Wildcats with double-digit scoring averages.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 8, 2013 

Dallas native Julius Randle is the Wildcats’ leading scorer despite being double- and even triple-teamed this season.

FRANK FRANKLIN II — The Associated Press

The old saying goes that “hard work beats talent — only if talent doesn’t work hard.’’

Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari typically has the talent, and often gets it to reach its massive potential.

His roster goes through as much upheaval as any in the country each year, with so many of his players going to the NBA. He’s had 17 players drafted since he took over in 2009-10, with 11 spending only one year with the team.

But the Wildcats relentlessly reload. They have reached the Elite Eight in three of Calipari’s four full seasons. This year, Kentucky is ranked No. 3 and has four true freshmen who have started all nine games. They are the team’s top four scorers.

“Two of the classic mistakes — fight a land war in Asia and underestimate Cal with his freshmen,’’ Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

Here is a look at Kentucky’s Fab Four going into Tuesday’s nonconference matchup between Kentucky (7-2) and Boise State (8-0) at Rupp Arena (7 p.m., ESPN):

JULIUS RANDLE, FORWARD, 6-9, 250

This season: 17.9 points per game, 12.1 rebounds per game.

Recruiting résumé: Rivals.com No. 2 overall recruit in 2013 class, ESPN.com No. 3, Scout.com No. 2.

Rice on Randle: “A one-man wrecking crew. … He’s got this tremendous size, but he’s so skilled, such a great mentality scoring, rebounding.’’

Scouting report: Rice said defending Randle will be a team effort. Senior Ryan Watkins won’t often be tasked with trying to slow Randle down one-on-one, as he’ll get plenty of help. Randle has a team-high 31 turnovers and is taking only 10.6 shots per game despite his dominant presence.

AARON HARRISON, GUARD, 6-6, 218

This season: 13.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg

Recruiting résumé: Rivals.com No. 7 overall recruit in 2013 class, ESPN.com No. 9, Scout.com No. 6.

Rice on Harrison: “Incredible athlete, slasher, he’s got incredible range to the NBA (3-point) line.’’

Scouting report: Harrison has shown flashes of being a strong defender, which at 6-6 will help him guard most Broncos. Boise State will want to not slack off on Harrison, as he can shoot from the perimeter or drive the lane, score or dish to Randle.

JAMES YOUNG, GUARD, 6-6, 215

This season: 13.1 ppg, team-high 20 3-pointers

Recruiting résumé: Rivals.com No. 11 overall recruit in 2013 class, ESPN.com No. 8, Scout.com. No. 11.

Rice on Young: “A great shooter, great athlete, yet another All-American.’’

Scouting report: Big and speedy, Young will look to get ahead of the defense, but the Broncos have been strong in transition. He is a good 3-pointer shooter, but he’s only shooting 63 percent from the free-throw line. His defense has been hit and miss.

ANDREW HARRISON, GUARD, 6-6, 215

This season: 10.0 ppg, 3.7 apg

Recruiting résumé: Rivals.com No. 5 overall recruit in 2013 class, ESPN.com No. 5, Scout.com: No. 5

Rice on Harrison: “Super fast, big playmaker.’’

Scouting report: The latest in a long list of great, young point guards, Harrison has struggled with consistency more than his twin brother as he learns the position. He has been foul-prone, with a team-high 32, so look for the likes of Boise State’s Derrick Marks to try and drive on him.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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