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John Clay: One-and-done great for players, leaves fans wanting more

By John Clay Lexington Herald-Leader (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:22 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — In they come, out they go.

One year still seems so short.

We are used to this, of course. In John Calipari’s five years as Kentucky’s head basketball coach, 12 of his players have now put in their one season before moving on to the NBA.

Calipari is re-branding this as a “succeed and proceed” scenario. The rest of the world refers to it as “one-and-done.”

This is not to in any way knock No. 12, Julius Randle, the UK forward who after completing his freshman season announced Tuesday he is placing his name into the NBA Draft.

No surprise there. The mock drafts project Randle as a certain top-10, possible top-five pick. No one can criticize Randle’s career path.

We just wish we could have gotten to know him better. And longer. He seemed like a fine young man with a great support group.

The basketball world now knows his mother after Carolyn Kyles was forced to leave the Midwest Region finals at halftime to catch a plane back to Texas to be at work the next morning.

He has a great role model and hoops mentor in Jeff Webster, the former Oklahoma basketball player. He has a terrific benefactor in Kenny Troutt, the WinStar Farm owner who financed Randle’s AAU team back in Texas and was on hand for Tuesday’s announcement.

In our one year together, Randle was never arrogant or cocky. At times he appeared weary of the constant media attention, but what 19-year-old wouldn’t grow tired of answering questions from prying adults with cameras and tape recorders and iPads.

The Texas native also had to tire of the constant double- and triple-teams brought by college defenses. It would have been fun to watch Randle further develop the skills necessary to burn such schemes.

That’s the thing with Randle. Even with his 24 double-doubles, we only saw a shadow of the player he can ultimately become. He can/must develop a perimeter game. He can/will continue to improve as a passer. He has the tools to be a better defender.

Randle used the term “adversity” several times Tuesday. He wasn’t referring to injuries or illness. He meant the team’s nine regular-season losses before UK’s deep post-season run. He meant the scrutiny and criticism that came when the team wasn’t living up to the excessive expectations.

“We know he still has some growing to do,” Carolyn Kyles said. “He’s just 19 years old and he’s going to be playing with grown men.”

We’ll witness the growth from afar. We’ll read the box scores. We’ll scan the web for feature stories. It won’t be the same.

For one thing, replacements are on the way. Always. Calipari’s tremendous success with the “succeed-and-proceed” business model has relied on his amazing ability to refill the coffers. Recruiting rules college basketball.

Tuesday highlight: Randle himself said next year’s UK team will be “amazing.”

And yet, last summer especially, many UK diehards admitted one-and-done fatigue. They missed a longer-term connection with the players. They yearned for the days when relearning the roster was not an annual fan requirement.

Much of that sentiment continued into this past season when matters were wobbling. Tournament success erased much of that, but I’m not sure it erased it all.

Good news: Change is coming.

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to raise the NBA age limit. That requires approval of the NBA Players Association. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports sources inside the players union say they favor the Major League Baseball model — one Calipari doesn’t support — in which players can be drafted out of high school. Those who opt for college must remain in school at least two years. That seems both fair and preferable to the current system.

We’re all for Julius Randle and the previous 11 living their dreams, after all. We just wish they were required to delay them a bit longer.

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