Campus Corner

NBA teams believe Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein could draw NFL interest

Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) dunks the ball as Dominique Hawkins, Norman Powell, and Bryce Alford watch during Saturday’s game against UCLA in Chicago.
Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) dunks the ball as Dominique Hawkins, Norman Powell, and Bryce Alford watch during Saturday’s game against UCLA in Chicago. AP

Several NBA teams believe there’s a chance Willie Cauley-Stein will be selected in the 2015 NFL Draft as a late-round flyer, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Star.

Cauley-Stein is a 7-foot junior center for top-ranked Kentucky and projects as a likely lottery pick in the NBA Draft if he declares, according to NBADraft.net and DraftExpress among others.

As a high school senior at Olathe Northwest, Cauley-Stein, then a mere 6-10, led the state of Kansas with 1,265 yards receiving. He caught 64 passes, including 15 touchdowns for the Ravens.

Cauley-Stein, who simply went by Willie Cauley at the time, was a first-team All-Metro selection at wide receiver by The Star and a finalist for the Otis Taylor Award as the best pass-catcher in Kansas City.

He displayed excellent hands, very good speed and was surprising difficult to tackle as this highlight reel shows (courtesy of Blake McFarland).

Several NFL tight ends with basketball backgrounds and Hall of Fame resumes, including former Chiefs All-Pro Tony Gonzalez and noted Chiefs killer Antonio Gates of the Chargers, have flourished, so it’s not a completely far-fetched idea.

Cauley-Stein drew some interest from a handful of college football teams — including Kansas, which reportedly offered him a scholarship on the spot after seeing him during a seven-on-seven camp — but obviously he signed instead with John Calipari’s Wildcats (and, let’s face it, that was probably a wise move).

Cauley-Stein is Kentucky’s second-leading scorer at 10.5 points. He also leads the Wildcats, averaging 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals, and is second with 22 blocked shots.

Kentucky improved to 12-0 on Saturday with an 83-44 against UCLA at the United Center in Chicago, a game the Wildcats led at halftime 41-7 — and, no, that’s not a misprint.

Cauley-Stein scored eight with five rebounds, four blocks, two steals and only one turnover.

Watch a selection of Cauley-Stein’s dunks on YouTube, but his blocked shots can be fun to watch too.

This dunk is ridiculous even if the landing could use some work and there’s an endless array of these lob dunks on the interwebs.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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