Mere feet from where Willie Cauley-Stein now sat and only a few minutes earlier, former Kentucky teammate Devin Booker admitted during a media session Wednesday in New York that he’d obsessed a bit over the litany of NBA mock drafts that proliferate the Internet.
Cauley-Stein, 21, professed no interest in such speculation.
“There’s no point,” he said. “They don’t know. Some 12-year-old kid could be writing that crap. … There’s no point in trying to stress yourself out.”
Cauley-Stein, an Olathe Northwest graduate who is expected to be a lottery pick Thursday during the 2015 NBA Draft, said he’d be happy to land anywhere.
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Until NBA commissioner Adam Silver calls his name, though, he won’t waste any energy fretting about his future.
“You have no control over who’s going to pick you, so I’m not about to have my heart set on somewhere to go and not get picked there,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m just going to relax and chill and whatever happens, happens.”
Cauley-Stein, who blossomed into an Associated Press first-team All-American and the SEC defensive player of the year as a junior with the Wildcats last season before declaring for the draft, isn’t likely to slide past Indiana at No. 11.
Pacers president Larry Bird hasn’t been shy about heaping praise on Cauley-Stein, who also could be selected as high as No. 4 to the Knicks or by several others teams in between.
He’ll know soon enough where the next stop in his journey takes him.
Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot rim-protector with the speed and athleticism to guard perimeter players, is a unique commodity.
His offensive game isn’t polished, but he draws comparisons defensively to Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler and might even be more of a physical player.
Those traits are about to land Cauley-Stein a multi-million dollar payday and, while he understands what got him to this precipice, he also believes there’s plenty of growth to come in his game.
“You’ve got to do what you got you there …” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m getting drafted, because I can guard multiple positions. Anything that comes other than that, there’s no pressure there. If I bring offense, then I bring offense. That’s just going to make the team that much better.”
Cauley-Stein averaged 8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game in three seasons at Kentucky. He’s the only Wildcats player with more than 500 career rebounds, 200 blocks and 100 steals.
As impressive as that is, he doesn’t think he got to show his entire repertoire in college and insists that he has a strong mid-range game to lean on if he’s asked to play away from the basket in the NBA.
“It’s not that I can’t do it,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s just that didn’t have to do it. If they (an NBA team) put me a system that they’re going to expect that from you, then you’re going to do.”
Cauley-Stein has no qualm with the fact he wasn’t asked to score more at Kentucky, but he’s ready to evolve — perhaps into an All-Star, he said.
“It wasn’t hard,” Cauley-Stein said. “You sacrifice. That’s why we went 38-1. … I shot probably 25 jumpers in my whole career there, but it’s going to be one of my strong suits, you know facing up and spreading out the court, being able to take bigger guys off the dribble, shoot over the top of people.”
Cauley-Stein’s high school teams never won a state title and Kentucky came up short the last two seasons despite reaching the Final Four.
He’s never won anything more than a conference championship in his playing career, so that’s his primary goal entering the NBA.
“I just want to win,” Cauley-Stein said. “I don’t really care about my game honestly, I just want to win. I’m just trying to win something. … I play with a chip on my shoulder, a real passion. I play hard all the time and bring a lot of energy to the table.”