Willie Cauley-Stein sounded at peace with a decision to return to Kentucky next season rather than enter this years NBA Draft. Speaking to reporters Monday, he espoused the notion of good things for himself and the UK team in 2013-14:
Question: How would you describe the meeting with Coach John Calipari to discuss your basketball future?
Answer: Pretty short. I enjoy school. Its not like I was in any hurry to leave. I never thought Id be one-and-done anyway. So another year doesnt really matter very much.
Q: You said after the loss at Robert Morris that your familys financial situation might be a factor. How did that factor in the decision to return to college?
A: They just said it was up to me. They survived this far without whatever I was going to make in the pros. So whats another year or two?
Q: What do you like about school?
A: You dont get these years back anyway, so why grow up sooner than you have to? Pay for stuff. Taxes. Im not trying to pay for taxes. Im still a kid. I just like college life. Going around like a celebrity. In the pros, its like that. But its going to be at a different level. Here, youre that one guy. Everybody knows you. In the pros, you can tell hes a pro. But who is he? I like it around here. People know my name, and its just fun.
Q: How much did the freshmen talk among themselves about the choice each had to make?
A: Very little. Archie (Goodwin) already had his mind made up before he even had a meeting with Cal.
Q: How competitive do you think practices will be next season?
A: Honestly, for me, I think that will be the best thing coming out of next year: Going against pros every day. This year it was like that till Nerlens (Noel) got hurt. Then we were going against Brian Long. Brian Long and Sam Malone. Youre not going to get better. Youre going to dominate in practice. Then in a game struggle.
Q: What do you think of the possibility that veteran players like Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress and you could not start next season?
A: I mean, it is, you know, what it is. At the end of the day, youre still going to get better. I feel our record will be a lot better. Itll be back to where Kentucky is supposed to be.
Q: What sort of feedback did you get about your draft status from NBA people?
A: I heard anywhere from eight to 10, 15 to 20, 22 to 25. And youre like, thats the whole dang scale. I didnt feel real comfortable taking a chance on it and landing somewhere Im not going to be good at or ending up hurting myself.
Q: How would you like to improve as a player?
A: Become a more all-around basketball player. (He talked of shooting three-pointers and pull-up jumpers while also driving to the basket). Become more of a complete dude, not just a guy thats going to stick in the paint.
Q: How would Calipari like you to improve?
A: He just told me I need to step up more as a vocal and hands-on leader. This year, I was just put in a situation. I had to step up and lead. But I wasnt ready to do it. Coming in, I was real hesitant about everything I was doing. I didnt think I was in a position to try to lead guys supposed to be more hyped than me or supposed to be better than me. I was laying back and watching instead of taking action like he wanted me to.
Q: What do you think about the team, especially the incoming freshmen, dealing with expectations?
A: Itll be harder. Its a tough road to go down. The hype is different because we have more guys coming in. Its going to be harder just because we have, like, 10 potential first-round picks.
Q: Whats the difference between potential and production?
A: If you dont come together and do things right, then youre just a bunch of talented kids that didnt get anything accomplished. Coach doesnt want the same thing to happen next year. Hes going to change a bunch of things so that doesnt happen. The intensity is going to pick up. The level were going to play is going to go up tremendously.
Q: How does UK instill a will-to-win zeal in next seasons team?
A: Just playing competitive every day is whats going to make that. Everything we do has got to be a win or lose. Everything we do has to have consequences. If you win, you get praise for it. So you get that kind of feeling: Oh, if I win, you get special treatment. And if you lose, youre doing something you dont want to do. Thats the way its going to be coming into it. Thats whats going to create that dog in you to try to go out and try to kill somebody.
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Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein talked to the media about his decision to return to UK for his sophomore season.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com