At one time in his career, Willie Cauley-Stein didn’t like college. In fact, he ‘hated’ attending classes. After two semesters, Cauley-Stein quickly changed his mind.
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows how bad Cauley-Stein disliked college courses and added Cauley-Stein wasn’t afraid to admit it at the time.
“He hated school,” he said. “He’d have told you, ‘I hate school.’ And I appreciate an honest guy. You know what he said by the end of the year? ‘I’m kind of loving this. I’m good now. The school part of it I’m liking.’
What led to Cauley-Stein’s transformation and his desire to return next season?
“Well, part of what we have to do is not only the love of basketball — you’ve got to find out who loves playing the sport,” Calipari said. “They’re just big so they were supposed to play, so they play. When you find those guys, you run from them. But believe me, they’re at every level of basketball.
“The second thing is you’re trying to create a love of learning. Reading books. The things that Willie, because he did not like school, he and I had books that we read together. I’d get him a book. He’d read it and I’d read it and I’d ask him questions about it. These kids are young kids. They’re 18. It’s your own child learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning to talk right, learning to mannered, socially learning their way. What makes these kids different? ‘Well, they’re bigger.’ Really? So now a kids’ 6-10 so he’s different than your own child? That’s why I say the patience of this, the galvanizing process that we have to do, keeping people away from them because the people in their ear truly only care about that person, not our team or the other guys. They like the other guys, but they don’t like them as much as they like you. So, that stuff is going to be part of this, too.”
Going into his second season with the Wildcats, Calipari said the sky is the limit.
“Willie Cauley has a chance at being one of the better players that I’ve ever coached,” the Kentucky coach said. “(He) is not delusional at all (if you) understood how far he had come, understood how far he needed to go, understood he could have been a first-round draft pick. He knew, but he came back anyway because he wasn’t delusional.”