#15 Willie Cauley-Stein
7’0″, 244 lbs.
Olathe Northwest High School
2011-2012: 15.8 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game
When Willie Cauley-Stein first committed to the University of Kentucky, not much was really known about him. He was a football star from the state of Kansas who also played two or three other sports, one of those being basketball. He was later known as that 7-footer who might see some time behind Nerlens Noel if needed. Scout.com had him ranked as the number 20 0veral best recruit in the nation, but was ranked 32 overal by ESPN and 39 overal by Rivals. Such a wide range of rankings for a guy every Kentucky fan immediately wanted to know all about. From what people could find on Cauley-Stein was that he was fast and had good hands, stemming from his All-State wide receiver stats and some short YouTube videos. He was almost a forgotten piece to the 2012 recruiting class, behind Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress. However, in just a few short months of being on UK’s campus, Willie Cauley-Stein is becoming a player every Kentucky fan is getting to know.
Coach Cal has been talking about Cauley-Stein ever since the first week of practice. He even went as far as saying that Cauley Stein was the biggest surprise out of anyone in practice.
He’s gained weight – 20 to 25 pounds – his skill set is absolutely improved, he’s fast, he’s nimble. You see him on the football tapes. So now he gained ground on Nerlens.
Coach Calipari stressed how Cauley-Stein could even be a legitimate scoring threat for this team this year.
Let me tell you what his job will be. I’ll run everybody down the floor, both ends. When we do drills, everything we do, someone wins and someone loses. He finishes first in all the runs. He’s 7-foot tall and he’s finishing first. And he’s running hard. He’s not just striding; he’s flying. What we’ll look for him is just take off. If he can get two, three layups a half, just flying, just outrun their big.
As time has progressed and the season draws near, you hear Coach Cal talk more about how patience is needed in regards to Nerlens Noel; yet, he never seems to say that Willie Cauley-Stein is going to take time to develop. All Coach Cal talks about it how Cauley-Stein is being seriously underrated and how he is going to surprise everybody come game time. The way he talks about Willie almost makes you think that he could be starting in that first game of the year, and no, I don’t mean both he and Nerlens starting. I mean that Willie Cauley-Stein could possibly be starting at the center position, alongside Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Ryan Harrow. UK fans should expect big things from this guy, because we know Coach Cal is. Coach Cal doesn’t usually talk up a player this much at the beginning of the year, when a game hasn’t even been played yet, but it seems his mindset regarding Cauley-Stein is different.
Essentially, it seems as if Willie Cauley-Stein is going to be a player who can do a little bit of everything for the Cats this season. He can score off lobs and post moves, he can rebound on both sides of the ball, his defense is solid and is continuing to improve everyday in practice and his speed in transition could work out well with Kentucky’s style of play. Going up against Nerlens Noel, regarded as one of the best defensive players in the country, everyday in practice is going to help Willie tremendously. Even if WCS doesn’t start, look for him to see a lot of the floor, depending on the type of lineup that Coach Cal throws out there. He could play the lineup previously mentioned, a twin tower offense for UK could make a reappearance from the Sam Bowie and Melvin Turpin days with both Cauley-Stein and Noel playing, or add in Wiltjer and the Cats would have the tallest front court in the nation. There’s also one other lineup that I am personally excited to see this season, although I don’t know how much UK fans will, in fact, see it. Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Julius Mayes, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, a fast paced offensive lineup that could run any opposing team out of the gym, the fast break would be almost unstoppable.
Regardless of the lineup, look for Willie Cauley-Stein to make a big impact this year. Who knows, he may even be a one and done type player by the end of the year, and if he is, the rest of the nation better watch out for the Wildcats come March Madness and tournament time.
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