March 15, 2014

Olathe Northwest grad Willie Cauley-Stein helps Kentucky rout LSU in SEC tourney

Anytime Kentucky sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein speaks, he is encircled by a dozen or more reporters eagerly lapping up every word from the hyper-athletic 7-footer who graduated from Olathe Northwest.

Kentucky sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein doesn’t conduct interviews as much as he holds court with the Wildcats’ media.

Anytime the hyper-athletic 7-footer who graduated from Olathe Northwest speaks, he is encircled by a dozen or more reporters eagerly lapping up every word.

“I think they know that I tell the truth, so they always want to come to me, because I’m going to say what I feel like saying,” Cauley-Stein said. “It might be bad, it might good, but I’m going to say what’s on my mind. And it’s fun. I have fun with everybody, so I think that’s why they like me.”

Cauley-Stein is comfortable in the spotlight.

He also was comfortable on the floor in an 85-67 rout against LSU, scoring eight points and going four of six from the field with six rebounds and six blocked shots off the bench.

Midway through the first half, and with the Wildcats down five, Cauley-Stein checked in and provided the spark to get John Calipari’s crew rolling.

He had three blocks along with an offensive rebound and the game-tying putback in less than two minutes and later added a jumper and a steal during a 19-2 run that changed the tenor of the game.

“My mindset was just go in try to rebound everything, try to block everything and sprint both sides of the floor,” Cauley-Stein said. “That's all I really tried to do. If a ball came to me on offense, just try to go up strong and either get a foul or get it off the rim for somebody to rebound it.”

Kentucky entered the season awash in hype thanks to a stellar recruiting class, but dreams of a 40-0 season quickly evaporated.

The Wildcats then struggled down the stretch in SEC play, but all was right in Big Blue Nation during Friday’s rout before a partisan Georgia Dome crowd, which has been dubbed “Catlanta.”

“The swagger that we had coming into the season is now what we have to play like,” Cauley-Stein said. “That adversity that hit us, it changed us for a little bit, but now, for the most part, we’ve got it back.”

Cauley-Stein hopes Kentucky can keep it going and perhaps win an SEC title, which would mark the first significant tourney championship of any kind in his basketball career.

“I’ve been thinking about that for the last week … after the Florida game leading up to right now,” Cauley-Stein said. “I really haven’t won anything but little tournaments or something when I was younger. It would be something special if we got a chance to play in the championship game and be able to win it.”

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