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Randle chosen with seventh overall pick
by Lakers in first round of 2014 NBA draft

Forward Julius Randle was drafted in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft, increasing Kentucky's run of having at least one player chosen in the opening round to five years in a row (Photo from UK Athletics)

Forward Julius Randle was drafted in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft, increasing Kentucky’s run of having at least one player chosen in the opening round to five years in a row (Photo from UK Athletics)

By Glenn Osborne
KyForward sports editor

Two months of speculation, analysis and mock drafts came to an end Thursday when University of Kentucky forward Julius Randle was taken with the seventh overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA draft, held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The 6-9 native of Dallas becomes the 14th Wildcat to be chosen in the first round since John Calipari became Kentucky’s head coach in 2009. Another UK freshman, James Young, was also taken in the first round, going to Boston with the No. 17 pick. Young is the first UK player to be drafted by the Celtics since Ron Mercer was chosen with the No. 6 pick in 1997. Fifteen of the 19 players drafted during Calipari’s tenure went in the first round.

Most experts projected that Randle would go in the top seven picks of the draft while Young was seen as a lock to come off the board in the first 15 to 20 choices.

James Young was Kentucky's top outside shooter last year (Photo from UK Athletics)

James Young was Kentucky’s top outside shooter last year (Photo from UK Athletics)

Randle was picked one spot lower than Nerlens Noel, who was taken with the sixth choice last year. Two former Kentucky players, Anthony Davis in 2012 and John Wall in 2010, were the top overall picks in their drafts.

The Cleveland Cavaliers chose Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 pick in the draft. He was followed by Jabari Parker of Duke, who went to the Milwaukee Bucks. The third draft selection was Joel Embiid, the Kansas center whose status was hurt by the discovery of a broken bone in his foot. He went to the Philadelphia 76ers, who drafted Nerlens Noel last year.

Randle was Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder last year while Young, a 6-6 guard from Rochester Hills, Mich., was the Wildcats’ top scoring threat from the perimeter and was the No. 2 point-producer for the team. Randle had 24 double doubles, the second highest total for any freshman last year.

Randle said he was surprised he wasn’t drafted higher when speaking to ESPN.

“Yeah, I should have gone higher,” he said. “Teams that passed on me will regret it. But it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. LA is the perfect spot for me. I’m looking forward to it. Great organization and Kobe Bryant. I can’t be more excited about where I’m going.”

ESPN anaylist Jay Bilas said shooting wasn’t the strong point of Randle’s game.

“He’s one of the best offensive rebounders in this draft,” said Bilas. “He’s not a shooter. He’s a driver. He’s not a guy who shoots jump shots.”

Kentucky finished 29-11 last year and made an unexpected run to the Final Four, where the Wildcats lost to Connecticut 60-54 in the National Championship game.

Prior to this year, a total of 36 Wildcat players have been chosen in the first round of the draft, beginning in 1949. Calipari has never had fewer than two players drafted each year he has coached at Kentucky. A record five were picked in 2010. Nineteen players have been drafted into the NBA during the Calipari era. In the history of the program, 110 Wildcats have been drafted.

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