Lakers forward Julius Randle starred at Kentucky two years ago. His lone collegiate season appeared lost before Randle and his youthful Wildcats teammates woke up in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the national championship game near Randle's hometown of Dallas. It was there Kentucky finally lost to Connecticut. Now, Randle is a constant face on the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour.
ThePostGame: How much Kentucky have you watched this season?
JULIUS RANDLE: It's kind of tough with the NBA schedule. We play so much. We're practicing and traveling. It's tough to keep up with games. As far as all of them, I watch the scores on my app and I've been able to catch a few games. I recently watched them a few times in the SEC Tournament. I'm always keeping up.
TPG: When your Kentucky team made the final, you guys were a No. 8 seed, a bit of an underdog. What advice do you have to underdogs in this NCAA Tournament?
RANDLE: Take it a game at a time. For us, when we were there, we obviously had the talent. It was just an up-and-down year and we could never get it going and get it working all together. Eventually, when we got to the NCAA Tournament, it all clicked. Coach [John Calipari] did a great job when we got to the NCAA Tournament, telling us to take it a game at a time. All you have to do every weekend is beat two teams and we were able to do that and focus on each game. When adversity hit, we came together and came closer. We just didn't get it done the last game.
TPG: You guys opened the season at No. 1 in the country, and then were a No. 8 seed by the tournament. Psychologically, how did you avoid being down come NCAA Tournament time?
RANDLE: It was a tough year. I think that has to do with a lot of the leadership within our players and our team that we could eventually turn it around and get it going. It has a lot to do with the leadership we had with Coach Cal and our assistants. They did a great job bringing us all together. Every practice mattered, every game mattered, every second of every game mattered and they did a great job holding us accountable every game.
TPG: Did you guys want Florida in that final?
RANDLE: (Laughs) Yeah, I did. I did. I personally wanted Florida because we had obviously lost to them three times that year, but we played them in the final of the SEC Tournament and that was probably my worst game of the year (1-7, 4 points). I played terrible. I kind of wanted revenge. It would have been sweet to beat them in the final when it mattered the most.
TPG: Was it almost bittersweet when you got to the final, knowing it could have been Florida, but it was Connecticut?
RANDLE: No. Honestly, it didn't matter. I obviously wanted to play Florida, but we were in my hometown of Dallas in the national championship game as a freshman. It didn't really matter who was there. We just wanted to get the job done and win the championship, which we couldn't do, but it didn't matter who was in the final. We were just glad to be there.
TPG: What was your most memorable moment from your one season in college?
RANDLE: That exactly. That adversity of the year, up-and-down, and everybody counting us out, and us being able to overcome that and make that run we were able to make. How we believed in each other and stood by each other at all times is something I'll never forget.
TPG: Kentucky gets a bad rap for being a one-and-done school. What are your feelings on the way college basketball works in terms of leaving school?
RANDLE: Well, I can only speak for myself ... I went to Kentucky for number one, my dream, growing up as a kid, was to make it to the NBA, and it was the best place I felt like a coach could hold me accountable for getting better on and off the court, not just as a basketball player but as a person and a human being. And it was a place I felt like I could win a national championship. I wanted to win and I wanted to win a national championship in Dallas. I felt like we could get there. Obviously, through the help of my coaches and my teammates, I was able to get there. We just didn't get the job done, but I felt like Kentucky did wonders for preparing me for the next level and next stage of my life.
TPG: How often do you talk with Coach Cal?
RANDLE: A lot. I talk to Coach Cal, Coach Kenny Payne, the assistant coach ... actually, while I was on the way to the game in Cleveland, they called me right before the game, I was talking to them. They keep my updated on what's going on there. When I was hurt last year, I was able to go back and visit a lot. It was good to see those faces.
TPG: It feels like no one goes to Kentucky without meeting [Coach Cal's buddy] Drake. What was it like as a college kid meeting Drake?
RANDLE: It was cool. Drake's a great guy. Obviously, he's a Kentucky supporter. Me being out here in Los Angeles and living out here, he still keeps in contact and in touch with all the players and stuff like that. It was especially cool being a college kid and Drake being around supporting us.
TPG: Will you be in a lyric any time soon?
RANDLE: I hope so. (Laughs) I'm not sure.
TPG: Playing with Kobe Bryant this season ... what has that experience been like this year going into arenas filled to the top everywhere you go?
RANDLE: It's pretty cool. Being able to watch him go out with so much love and appreciation for the game. Me, growing up in Dallas, obviously, I was supposed to be a Mavericks fans, but I wasn't. I was a huge Laker fan, a huge Kobe Bryant fan, he was my favorite player growing up, so to be able to watch him as a little kid and have so much admiration for him, and then be able to be on his team, and see firsthand every night when he plays, how much love and appreciation they have for him, it's pretty cool.
TPG: Last year, you were hurt for almost all of the season (Randle broke his right tibia in the 2014-15 season opener). Kobe was injured for a lot of the season. Did that grow a bond between you two, as you sat on the bench together?
RANDLE: I think it did. It helped me tremendously. There were times it was tough for me, early, and throughout the process of rehabbing, he was always there. He was always giving me motivation. It was something he went through before. He was always giving me motivation to help me out whenever whenever I needed help. He helped me stay patient and stuff like that. There were times I wanted to go, and I felt great, and they kind of wanted to be cautious. He was able to be there and help me be patient.
TPG: What advice has he given you about your game?
RANDLE: He likes the way I play, but me being a young player, there are things I have to work on: Getting better at finishing with my right hand, continuing to develop my jump shot, working on my footwork and stuff like that. There's stuff in the summer that I have to get busy and work on. If I do that, I feel like I could be a tremendous player in this league.
TPG: What are you doing with Verizon?
RANDLE: We're doing a thing called "Basket Blitz." It's kind of like an arcade-style shooting game. Wednesday, nationally, you'll have the chance to win NBA gear and stuff like that. Locally, for the fans here in LA, you'll have a chance to win a shootaround here on the court.
— Verizon (@verizon) March 15, 2016
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.