Instead of taking bows, Willie Cauley-Stein seemed a bit defensive about being named Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday.
On a day he was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News as well as SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Cauley-Stein said he planned to have a metaphorical chip on his shoulder going into this week's SEC Tournament and beyond.
"People saying I'm a one-sided player," he said. "I don't believe that. My team doesn't believe that. And that drives me nuts."
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In a conversational tone (without a hint of disgruntlement), Cauley-Stein made no secret about disliking being typecast as a defensive player, or, more precisely, only a defensive player.
"I'm a ballplayer," he said. "I'm not just a defensive player. I'm not out there to just play defense."
In response to a question, Cauley-Stein said he scored as a high school player.
"I had to," he said. "Here, you don't have to score, and I think that's why I play the way I play. Because we've got so many weapons."
That might change in the future, Cauley-Stein said.
"One game I'm probably going to have to score," he said. "Eventually, (opponents) are going to start to play on Karl (Anthony Towns) heavy. I'm going to have to step up and score some baskets."
Of course, as the sporting axiom goes, defense wins championships. Cauley-Stein acknowledged the wisdom of that saying.
Yet, he'd like to be known as a well-rounded player who can contribute at both ends.
"I don't necessarily have to do it," he said of scoring. "I just show it in spurts. That's why people think, oh, he's inconsistent. ...
"I don't feel I get enough credit on that. At the end of the day, that's what drives me. So I'm going to continue to let it drive me."
Cauley-Stein downplayed the ability to play defense.
"Defense is all about reaction," he said. "You don't have to be a genius to play defense. ... You just have to react to the other person."
Assistant coach John Robic, who substituted for John Calipari at a news conference, said that Cauley-Stein had had a "terrific year." He also noted how much Cauley-Stein had improved in his three seasons for Kentucky.
"His offense is still a work in progress," Robic said. " ... Now, we want to throw the ball to the post to have him make a play or get fouled. Because he's shooting free throws so much better this year.
"It's not like we have to hide anybody. It doesn't have to be situational (substituting offense for defense and vice versa)."
That said, Robic did not devalue defense.
"Being a good defensive player is a great thing," he said. "He changes the game in so many facets."
Cauley-Stein's comments came in the context of trying to get in a proper frame of mind for the postseason. He seemed to be saying he wanted to play with what the sporting world refers to as an edge.
"I think some guys are right mentally," he said. "And some guys aren't right mentally, and have to get right in the next couple days."
Cauley-Stein put himself in the latter category.
And the last five games showed it," he said. "I've been playing real tentative. Not at the best of my game. But I plan on getting it right. These next five days are vital for me to just get it right.
"It's mental. Coming out with a chip on your shoulder against your own team (in practice)."
Cauley-Stein offered no complaint about SEC coaches voting Bobby Portis of Arkansas as Player of the Year.
"Honestly, you can give him Player of the Year," the UK player said. "I'll take 31-0 any day of the week. You know, he's a good player, but it is what it is. I'd rather be undefeated than get Player of the Year."
Cauley-Stein acknowledged the awkwardness of individual awards for a player on a UK team that's spoken of and played to a one-for-all approach all season.
"I give them all up, for real," he said of the awards. "I'd give them all up to everybody. I came back for one reason, and that's the mission I'm on."
That would be winning the national championship.
"All the other stuff is fluff to me," he said.