After starting the season on a tear and looking every bit like the NBA lottery pick many believe he’ll be, Willie Cauley-Stein has hit a slump. Starting with the Arkansas game (where he presumably saw his girlfriend, an Arkansas student), Willie has reverted, letting smaller players push him around the paint and looking downright depressed on the sideline. There are several theories floating around the Big Blue Nation for his funk, including girl troubles, his interests outside of basketball, and even the fact that he dyed his hair from blond back its natural color.
While the BBN is ready to throw Willie an old-fashion sleepover with bleach bottles, chocolates, tissues, and a copy of “Love and Basketball” to get him through this tough time, his teammates are confident he’ll bounce back soon. Alex Poythress, Julius Randle, and Dakari Johnson were all asked about Willie’s struggles last night, and here are their comments:
Alex is no stranger to slumps. The sophomore has finally turned the corner after a difficult freshman year, emerging as a confident, decisive sixth man who elevates his team’s play with hustle and energy. His turnaround could be the story of the season so far. When asked what advice he would give his fellow sophomore after going through struggles of his own, Alex said that Willie just needs to keep his head down and continue to work hard in practice:
“We know what he can do, we know what he’s doing. He’s just in a little funk right now. We’ve all been through it. You know, just keep on doing good in practice, it’s not nothing that he can’t do. He’s just in a little funk. He’ll get out of it, because we need him to go down the stretch. He’s a big part of our team.”
Like Alex, Julius stressed how important Willie was to the team’s success, and said that unless he’s playing well, the team won’t be able to have the type of season they want:
“I can’t really speak for Willie. All I can really say is this season we’ve all seen what he can do. As far as the defensive end, he changes the game completely. And offensively if he’s aggressive he really changes the game. We’re not going to be where we want to be unless Willie’s playing well and we all know. I can’t say it’s a lack of him no practicing hard or putting in extra effort or extra work at night with coaches. I’ve seen him do it before practice, after practice, stuff like that. So I think it’ll come around him.”
You could argue that Dakari has the most to gain from Willie’s struggles. Dakari stepped in so ably last night that Cal started him over Willie in the second half; however, Dakari was humble about the opportunity and said that the team really still needs Willie to do well.
“I’ve just been trying to come off the bench and give a little spark to the team, bring energy. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
On Willie’s struggles: “I’m not sure. I know he’ll bounce back. He’ll have some great practices. We really need him to step up if we want to do anything special, but he’ll be fine.”
On whether or not it feels good to help the team out while Willie struggles: “Yeah it does but we still really need Willie. He’ll have some great practices and me and him have been going at it in practice. As long as I’m making him better, he’ll pick it up.”
Just remember, Willie: We’re all Willie Cauley-Stein men (and women):