Recruiting Source: Florida, Texas in Front for Julius Randle

As a rule of thumb, blue chip prospects targeted by Kentucky generally place the Wildcats atop their list.

Julius Randle may be a rare exception.

A source close to Randle’s recruitment informs Busting Brackets that Florida and Texas, not Kentucky, are the two leaders for Randle’s services at this time.

The coveted Texan who runs with the Texas Titans during the summer is targeting a spring decision, when he’ll choose between Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, NC State and Oklahoma. To the surprise of many, Randle recently eliminated Duke and North Carolina—two schools that had at one point been considered major players in this race—from contention.

Randle took his second official visit to Florida (his first was to Lexington) earlier this month for the school’s gridiron showdown against LSU. He has forged a strong relationship with UF head coach Billy Donovan, who coached him on the U.S. Under-18 team at the FIBA Americas Championship last summer.

Texas, meanwhile, offers the close-to-home factor and an opportunity for Randle to shine in the frontcourt without interference. The Longhorns have pushed hard to land the Prestonwood High School star, and remain the only Texas school in play after Randle scratched off Baylor from his list.

Of the two schools, Florida, the source surmises, is the favorite at this juncture in the recruitment thanks to the strong bond Randle has developed with Donovan. Kentucky and dark horse NC State are also very much in the running.

There’s still a long way to go in this derby, however, and this may not be the last time Randle changes favorites. Over the summer, the word on the grapevine was that Duke was one of two or three likely landing spots for Randle, yet the Blue Devils didn’t survive the latest round of cuts.

North Carolina was heavily in play as well, so much so that Roy Williams swanked dozens of rings accrued over the years during an in-home visit with Randle. The Tar Heels didn’t make the most recent cut either.

Florida already owns commitments from a pair of top-ten prospects, including one from Chris Walker, a 5-star power forward who shares Randle’s position. It’s unclear if Walker’s presence would deter Randle from choosing the Gators. That Florida has lasted this long in the recruitment—and is now, according to a source, the school to beat at the moment—suggests Randle believes the two can coexist in what would be a nasty frontcourt in Gainesville.

The recruiting cupboard is bare for Texas in the class of 2013, and Randle remains the Longhorns’ top priority. The cupboard for Kentucky, meanwhile, is much more congested. The Wildcats notched a commitment on Wednesday from high-upside center Marcus Lee, securing the program’s fourth major commit in two weeks. John Calipari has also sewed up commitments from Andrew and Aaron Harrison—the top two guards in the class—and explosive scorer James Young.

Busting Brackets reported in August that there is “little to no chance” Julius Randle and the Harrison twins will play their college ball together. Several sources have reiterated that Randle would prefer to play at a school where he won’t have to fight for touches, this despite Randle’s recent dismissal of reports that he and the twins are at odds (for the record, we’ve never reported otherwise).

In a USA Today blog entry, Randle insisted he’d be open to playing with the brothers in college. But as we’re learning, there’s a big difference between being open to and wanting to.

Whether Randle is open to playing with the brothers or not, Florida point guard pledge Kasey Hill, not Andrew or Aaron Harrison, is in position to be Randle’s future post-feeder. That is, at least for now in this ever-evolving soap opera. Stay tuned.