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Willie reveals he has a sickle cell trait


(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Willie Cauley-Stein played great last night, but told reporters after that he wanted to do even more, but because he has a sickle-cell trait, he had to come out at times due to fatigue.

A sickle cell trait itself is not a disease; it just means that one of Willie’s parents had sickle cell anemia or passed the recessive gene on to him. People with the gene don’t have the severe symptoms of sickle cell anemia, but it can cause some complications because there are still some misshapen blood cells that cannot carry enough oxygen. Because of that, those with the trait sometimes tire easily, especially when dehydrated or in high altitudes. Willie said that when he feels the bad chest pain, he knows it’s time to come out:

“I was just trying to play hard. I was having a little sickle-cell problem and my chest was starting to hurt, so I had to keep on telling myself, ‘In and out.’ So I wasn’t going to be able to play the minutes that I normally play, but I just tried to go as hard as I could when I could and come out whenever I felt fatigued,” Willie said. “I have the sickle-cell trait, so some days it’s just randomly where I’ll have like real bad chest pain and I can’t like breathe and my heart rate won’t come down, so I gotta stop and wait for it to come down.”

Take care of yourself, Willie.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR.

37 responses to “Willie reveals he has a sickle cell trait”

  1. DD

    This should serve as a reminder to everyone that THIS IS JUST A DARN GAME. There are things much more important than basketball. I applaud Willie for being forthcoming about this issue. 8 Titles, 9 Titles, whatever, these are kids with lives that hopefully will go on long after they have worn the Blue and White. Yes they get a scholarship, but remember this next time you go on about some 18-21 year old, “Not playing hard enough.” I was already a big WCS fan. These just makes me like the kid even more.

    1. Billy

      Amen to that DD. All my respect W/C/S/ that is just fantastic how that you try and do all that you can and it shows, Huge fan here.

  2. brad

    I’m a WCS Man.

  3. Zack

    Actually, Willie’s parent most likely did not have sickle cell anemia… Mom or dad probably passed down the recessive “sickle cell trait” gene.

    1. Haha

      I think Zack is Ted Mosby…

  4. stubbs

    This explains some concerns that fans expressed last season, with wcs appearing unusually fatigued on occasion.

  5. UKALLDay

    I just love his game, 9 blocks AGAIN. He is faster than any big I think I’ve seen (Anthony is close). He gets up and down that floor and effects the game, EVEN WHEN HE IS NOT SCORING. He has really developed under Cal, he was always a good athlete but he has so much more lift now his vertical has increased DRAMATICALLY since he’s been on campus. A good leaper + a long 7’1” frame = LETHAL SHOT BLOCKER. I mean he’s effecting damn near every shot now, when he is not in the game you NOTICE. His offensive polish needs to come along a little, but he is more than capable. He’s like Tyson Chandler out there. 6 points, 7 rebounds, 9 blocks, in 25 min, a real stat sheet stuffer.

  6. Snowball

    Just a random thought about our fan’s recent lack of attendance/passion during games.

    Is it possible that with the constant revolving door that has been happening since Cal’s been here, that we as a fanbase are losing a little bit of the connection with the team that’s always been so strong? I mean sure, we love the guys for the year that they’re here, but we don’t really get to know them in the way we used to get to know our players. I admit to finding myself not being as excited about games as I used to be and I think this might have something to do with it. These days it’s more about the players and their futures than it is about playing for Kentucky and I think we as fans are seeing it and it’s hurting our fandom a bit. What do you all think?

    1. HoopDream

      Well how about we just let Cal recruit 4 year guys and leave all the one and done players for Duke, Kansas, UCLA and UNC. Cause we all know they would take them. Look we have to get the best guys and the best guys are one and done. Don’t believe me, just go look at the top pick in the DRAFT the last like 6 out of 7 years! If they are not ready then they will stay, I can name countless amount of players who have stayed. We have to do what we have to do to compete and win titles and that means getting the best players even if it is only for one year. Kentucky is not the only team that does this, all of the top programs do it too. DUKE just loaded up on one and done players, Kansas this current year is flooded with one and done players. Unfortunately the fan base is driven by results and wins not familiarity with the players.

    2. M

      I was at the game yesterday and the energy level was extremely low from the fans. It may be because it was cold at night. Maybe it was because it was a 9 PM game and a lot of the older fans were tired. Some didn’t bother showing. I think the student section did a good job yesterday. I think if we’re not going to let them on one side of the court they should get both baseline sections. I believe they’ll show, and seem to be our only hope at getting some life in the arena. Money talks though. All I know, is that if I was a recruit, and UK wasn’t pumping out NBA pick after NBA pick with Calapari at UK, I’d consider going elsewhere. The atmosphere made me question whether it’s worth spending over $100 to go to a game rather than enjoying it with friends and getting rowdy at home at a cheaper cost. I’d love to be in the lower arena, but have heard fans get yelled at for standing. I can afford the tickets, but I want to stand. There are a lot of great Kentucky fans ready to make some noise. I don’t think it has to do with one-and-done, but maybe it does for the older people that don’t create the college type atmosphere. I’ve noticed some teams give students 1 side, and the money the other side and somehow those schools survive.

    3. Alamo_CatFan

      I get what you are saying but I think its more than the revolving door. In most seasons of the one-and-done era (09-present) I still felt a connection to the players and have fond memories of the teams to this day. However, last year (minus Noel) and so far this year I’m growing strangely ambivalent. Maybe because it is still early, that’s what I’m hoping. There just don’t seem to be the personalities or passion that gets fans pumped. More business like now it seems. Again, hoping its the learning curve and SEC play will get fun.

    4. Snowball

      Hoopdream – I agree with you, I think Cal is doing the right thing by going after the best. I guess my point is that is the state of college basketball in general becoming stale because of what it’s become? I really think they should change the rule and allow players to go straight to the pros, but if they do decide to go to college, they shouldn’t be allowed to enter the draft for 3 years. That would show a commitment to education (which is supposed to be why someone goes to college, right?) and a commitment to the university and to improving yourself as a player. Just my opinion, I know a lot will disagree.

    5. yep

      I agree Snowball. Know what pretty much killed my love of baseball? Free agency. Why? Because back in the day, you generally watched your favorite player play for your team for years. Anybody remember the Big Red Machine? Most of those guys played many years for the Reds. Now, a young guy plays out his initial contract and boom, he’s lost to free agency. You don’t get the emotional connection to a player when you know they are a short timer.

      So it goes with basketball these days, and no not just UK. Of course Cal should go after the elite players. The difference is, 15 years ago or so, these guys would stay at least 3 years! Remember Mashburn, Walker, Delk, etc.? So yeah, I have a harder time connecting to the one and done system (and again, not just talking about at UK). One thing I like about the women’s game is you get to watch a player develop, improve and come along over 4 years. Look at UK women this year .. they have 2 McD’s All American Freshmen that don’t play a whole lot. They get to practice, watch and learn because Mitchell knows there is no hurry to bring them along.

      So no, I don’t want Cal not to recruit these guys. I want the whole stupid system to change. Do away with the one and done rule (NBA), change it to a 2 year requirement or whatever. It has definitely sucked the passion out of the overall NCAA college bball experience for me.

  7. trey

    Anthony Davis named top player under 25 in the NBA, per ESPN.

  8. tlwood

    so the Denver Nuggets won’t be drafting him.

    1. Doctor Guy

      I see what you did there

  9. Turner the Burner

    There is an NFL player that has this and can’t play when they play in Denver. I wonder if WCS will have to sit out those Denver games in the league?

    1. The Loco Pollo

      Yeah, Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I believe he had an incident in Denver early in his career and got real sick and has sat out any games there since.

    2. Steelers

      He probably will. Clark played there and literally almost died after the game. He was rushed into surgery where he lost his gall bladder and spleen.

  10. Rupp UK2K

    So am I the only one who thinks WCS should be drafted by the Thunder?
    His style would mesh well with Westbrook and KD (fashion wise)
    and would allow the Thunder to play with great Athleticism without being slowed down by Perkins.

    1. PhilUK18

      The idea that any organization would draft a player based on how his fashion sense blends with two of their other players is hilarious to me. Anyone who drafts on that criteria would be out of a job very quickly haha. I do agree though actually with your premise that he would fit well with their playing style. Perkins is getting way too old and Willie is athletic enough that he would be great for the way they play. But unless they’ve made some trade I don’t know about, I think he’ll be taken well before they pick anyway

    2. ....

      …he means style of play…

  11. RICK

    Fans showing up for games is down all over, so no its not the one and dones, we have to take them and anyone that says they wouldn’t is either crazy or lieing. I am still just as fired up about KY as i have ever been and if the one and dones bother you i would say its more about you than the players or the school.

  12. LIKE

    Like, that was like, strong use of like the word, like, WCS.

  13. Zack

    Willie is also less likely to ever get malaria because people with SS trait are somewhat protected against malaria infections.

  14. Zack

    I guess this info would have probably came out eventually pre-draft, but I’m a little perplexed as to why Willie would publicize this. I wonder if it will draw any concerns by any NBA front offices.

    1. RealCatsFan

      I have to agree – hope this doesn’t hurt his draft stock! Of course, he would be welcome to hang around for a couple more years just to be sure. :)

      Good luck, Willie! Waiting to see what the next hair do is going to look like!

  15. Rick

    I just really hate to hear this. Praying for you Willie. I’m a Willie Cauley Stein man!

  16. Jack Birdwhistell

    Explains why it looked like he was playing in pain last nite–he was!

  17. SeoulCat

    Tony Delk’s girl has sickle cell anemia, which means that Tony necessarily is a carrier of the gene (and he probably wasn’t the only UK athlete with the gene). I can’t remember a single episode of him taking off plays or feeling down because it. Generally speaking, the sickle cell trait does not (usually) cause the carrier to exhibit any symptoms or result in any problems. That’s not to say Willie doesn’t have some medical issues which may sap his energy; it just sounds like he is clicking on webmd a bit too much. If he is feeling down, maybe he should get a thorough cardio diagnostics done.

    1. KevvBacon

      Every case is different. And yes, people with the trait do tend to show symptoms, especially when their heartbeats are elevated, or if they aren’t eating well or dehydrated. When I was a teenager I worked for a landscaping company with a kid who had the trait, and one really hot day he cramped up, sat down, and started shivering, almost like a seizure. We had to take him to the emergency room. And THE DOCTORS explained that it was his sickle-cell trait. So comparing Tony Delk to Willie Cauley-Stein, and then saying he just has a hypochondria is not only wrong and stupid, but insulting to WCS.

    2. Linda Taylor

      Sickle cell trait is a hemoglobin genotype AS and is generally regarded as a benign condition.[2] However, individuals with sickle cell trait may have rare complications. For example, in November 2010, Dr. Jeffery K. Taubenberger of the National Institutes of Health discovered the earliest proof of Sickle-cell disease while looking for the virus of the 1918 flu during the autopsy of an African-American soldier. Taubenberger autopsy results show that he suffered a sickle-cell crisis that contributed to his death even though he had one copy of the gene.[3] There have been calls to reclassify sickle cell trait as a disease state, based on its malignant clinical presentations.[4] Significance may be greater during exercise.[5]

      2 ^ Roach ES (November 2005). “Sickle cell trait: innocent until proven guilty”. Arch. Neurol. 62 (11): 1781–2. doi:10.1001/archneur.62.11.1781. PMID 16286558.
      3 ^ “From 1918 Autopsy, A First Glimpse of Sickle Cell — and a Warning” http://www.wired.com
      4 ^ Ajayi AA (October 2005). “Should the sickle cell trait be reclassified as a disease state?”. Eur. J. Intern. Med. 16 (6): 463. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2005.02.010. ISSN 0953-6205. PMID 16198915.
      5 ^ Connes P, Reid H, Hardy-Dessources MD, Morrison E, Hue O (2008). “Physiological responses of sickle cell trait carriers during exercise”. Sports Med 38 (11): 931–46. doi:10.2165/00007256-200838110-00004. PMID 18937523.

      As someone who has a genetic blood disorder similar in many aspects to sickle cell disease that I almost died from when I was 9 months old, one that wasn’t supposed to clinically manifest itself, I know that these things are not always black and white. I guarantee you I was not reading WebMD when I was 9 months old. The blood transfusion that saved my life and started me on a life long course of medical care wasn’t something I would have chosen for my life.

  18. Dylan Kupper

    The majority of African Americans carry the sickle cell gene. It goes back to ancient Africa when the Africans blood cells evolved to the Malaria disease. The outcome of this evolution was the sickle cell gene found in their red blood cells. Therefore it is not uncommon for African Americans to carry the sickle cell gene. So lets please not blow something as silly as this out of proportion. Im sure Cauley-Stein isnt the only person in the entire college basketball landscape playing with an ailment. A good example being Chris Lofton playing with testicular cancer six or seven years ago. To me this just seems like Willie is looking for pity and playing the poor pitiful me card. You are a Kentucky Basketball player pardon my french but quit your bitching.

    1. roundball fool

      nice, kupper.

  19. specialetta

    Trolls even in on this subject, pathetic.

  20. Bonnie J Johnson

    Hey Willie you hang in there & take care of yourself! Your health is more important than ANY ball game!! Keep well we are behind any decision you may make! Avid fan & retiree. BJ