John Calipari got a lot of mileage out of pointing out that the top players off his 2012 title team that went 1-2 in the NBA draft were ranked fourth and fifth in shots attempted. And Willie Cauley-Stein may give him a chance to make that point again.
For now, Cal can point out that Willie Cauley-Stein is starting to get national player-of-the-year buzz despite averaging seven shot attempts per game. His 77 field goal tries are second-most on the team, but only because he’s playing the most minutes—and he’s playing the most minutes because of his defense.
North Carolina’s Roy Williams talked about how Cauley-Stein impacted every area of the game last Saturday in the Cats’ decisive win over the Tar Heels. And think back to the Providence game, when Cauley-Stein locked down a perimeter player who had scored 67 points in his previous two games. LaDontae Henton managed just three points against UK.
Williams described Cauley-Stein as the “spearhead” of Kentucky’s defense and it’s a rare site to see a 7-footer be able to guard perimeter players and run the floor like a deer. Factor in some offensive improvement and that’s why Cauley-Stein is skyrocketing up the draft projection lists, to fourth in a recent one I saw.
And his success just serves to drive home the message Calipari preaches, about not letting offense and making shots define one’s play.