Kentucky Sports

Optimistic Willie Cauley-Stein embraces another UK season

Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) was all smiles as Kentucky defeated Florida 61-57 on Saturday March 9, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) was all smiles as Kentucky defeated Florida 61-57 on Saturday March 9, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Willie Cauley-Stein sounded at peace with a decision to return to Kentucky next season rather than enter this year’s 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. It’s not like I was in any hurry to leave. I never thought I’d be one-and-done anyway. So another year doesn’t really matter very much.”

Q: You said after the loss at Robert Morris that your family’s 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 what’s another year or two?”

Q: What do you like about school?

A: “You don’t get these years back anyway, so why grow up sooner than you have to? Pay for stuff. Taxes. I’m not trying to pay for taxes. I’m still a kid. I just like college life. Going around like a celebrity. In the pros, it’s like that. But it’s going to be at a different level. Here, you’re that one guy. Everybody knows you. In the pros, you can tell he’s a pro. But who is he? I like it around here. People know my name, and it’s 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. You’re not going to get better. You’re 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, you’re still going to get better. I feel our record will be a lot better. It’ll 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 you’re like, that’s the whole dang scale. I didn’t feel real comfortable taking a chance on it and landing somewhere I’m 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 that’s 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 wasn’t ready to do it. Coming in, I was real hesitant about everything I was doing. I didn’t 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: “It’ll be harder. It’s a tough road to go down. The hype is different because we have more guys coming in. It’s going to be harder just because we have, like, 10 potential first-round picks.”

Q: What’s the difference between potential and production?

A: “If you don’t come together and do things right, then you’re just a bunch of talented kids that didn’t get anything accomplished. Coach doesn’t want the same thing to happen next year. He’s going to change a bunch of things so that doesn’t happen. The intensity is going to pick up. The level we’re going to play is going to go up tremendously.”

Q: How does UK instill a will-to-win zeal in next season’s team?

A: “Just playing competitive every day is what’s 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, you’re doing something you don’t want to do. That’s the way it’s going to be coming into it. That’s what’s 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.

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