In an attempt to close the recruiting deal, Kentucky Coach John Calipari watched big man Willie Cauley play Friday night. He watched him play football.
Cauley, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound basketball center, who plays wide receiver and cornerback for Northwest High School in Olathe, Kan., said Monday that he has committed to play basketball at Kentucky.
Cauley is no slouch on the football field. His 57-yard touchdown catch Friday improved his nine-game totals this season to 57 receptions, 1,140 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. The latter leads the state of Kansas. Northwest plays in Class 6A, the classification for high schools with the largest enrollment.
"I love football, to be honest," Cauley said. "I've been playing since the third grade."
When asked to assess Cauley as a football player, Northwest High football coach Todd Dain said, "Pretty salty."
As an eighth grader, Cauley aspired to be a Division I quarterback. "I wasn't going to play (basketball)," he said.
But already 6-6, he came to realize basketball was, if not his destiny, his best opportunity to play professionally.
"He's a hitter," Dain said of Cauley at cornerback. "He's a tremendous football player. But I don't know if he's NFL caliber."
Cauley, who is ranked No. 32 nationally by ESPN and No. 39 by Rivals, picked Kentucky over Alabama, Florida and Kansas State. He joined guard Archie Goodwin as prospects who have committed to UK.
"I felt going to Kentucky, I'll be playing against the best in the nation," he said. "I'll get better and have a chance to go early. That was a big thing."
When asked after how many college seasons he might enter the NBA draft, Cauley said, "Hopefully, two. No later than three."
Brick Oettinger, a recruiting analyst for the Prep Stars service, does not consider Cauley a candidate to be a so-called one-and-done player.
"I think he'll be three years in college," Oettinger said. "Maybe he goes the whole four. But by then, he'll be ready for the NBA."
That's not to say Cauley was not a highly coveted player. Oettinger said he's generally viewed as a bit raw offensively but a player with lots of potential. "I don't think anybody would have turned down Willie Cauley," the analyst said.
Cauley acknowledged the difficulty in not committing to Kansas State. His father and an uncle had played for Kansas State Associate Coach Brad Underwood, he said.
"I would have been an in-state hero," he said. "That would have been awesome."
As for Kansas, Cauley confirmed that the Jayhawks did not offer a scholarship.
"My family is big K-U," he said. "Now, they'll have to switch to Kentucky. I grew up wanting to play for (Kansas). They never caught on."
Cauley averaged about 15 points and nine rebounds as a junior, Northwest High basketball coach Mike Grove said.
"He'll have to improve his overall efficiency offensively," Grove said. "It's not broken. It's not refined."