#15 Willie Cauley-Stein
Sophomore - F/C
Cauley-Stein was much more than just a basketball player in high school; he was a well-rounded athlete at 7 ft. tall. Cauley-Stein admitted at one point last season that his favorite sports was neither football or basketball, it was baseball. Maybe after a few seasons in Lexington that will change. But Cauley-Stein’s athleticism is what led John Calipari to recruit him to suit up in the blue and white. During his senior year in high school, Cauley-Stein averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and four assists. On the football field, he finished with 57 receptions for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns as a wide receiver. He knew, however, that he ultimately wanted to play basketball in college.
AS A WILDCAT
During his first season at Kentucky, Cauley-Stein came off the bench as the unofficial sixth man. He played a fair amount, providing rest to either Alex Poythress or Nerlens Noel while contributing on the court. While his free throw shooting was far from great, Cauley-Stein was a solid rebounder on both ends of the court and occasionally provided some blocks on defense. On offense, he caught a lob or two coming off a backdoor screen or in transition. His game was reminiscent of someone that Cat fans had seen the year before with Anthony Davis. His averages early in the season were 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
After Noel was sidelined the rest of the season with his injury, Cauley-Stein was heavily relied on to lead the team to make a late run in the season at an NCAA Tournament berth. While the team fell short of that goal, Cauley-Stein improved on the court, although it wasn’t in the way he wanted to. He averaged 9.5 rebounds, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks at the end of the season.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2013-14
Cauley-Stein has evolved in just one complete season at Kentucky. His game, slightly. But his attitude? Tremendously. Cauley-Stein looks hungry heading into this season. Not only do him and returning sophomore Alex Poythress feel as if they have something to prove on the court, but they do not want to be anywhere in the ballpark of last year’s season. “Honestly, if we would’ve won the Robert Morris game and I would’ve had a couple more good games after that, I probably would’ve put my name in,” he said. “But God has a plan and you kind of just have to run with it. We’ve got a chance to be really special this year, and I’m hyped about it. I’m glad that I decided to stay and to get a chance to be a part of something that Kentucky’s never seen before.”
Cauley-Stein, like everyone else on the team, is forced to compete for a starting position, and that won’t come easy. He knows the frontcourt in itself is loaded this season. Even Coach Cal hinted not too long ago that we could see five freshman starting at one point. But Cauley-Stein won’t let that happen. Experience and talent will give him a few starting roles early before Coach Cal settles on a lineup, only because I think he will do plenty of rotations early in the season before we have a permanent starting lineup. Cauley-Stein will be the type of player he wanted to be, Calipari knows he can be, and the player we have yet to see. Julius Randle will ultimately lead this team statistically, but Cauley-Stein will be the real leader on this team.
My prediction: 10.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.2 bpg; 23-26 min per game
UK Head Coach John Calipari:
“Willie was the most pleasant surprise of our offseason workouts. He had no idea how good he could be until he got to campus. Now that he’s had time to put on weight and gain confidence, we’re seeing a different player who understands he can play with anyone in the country.”
Willie Cauley-Stein on himself:
“This year I’m ready for a leader role. I’m ready to express me for who I am.”