The man formerly known as the Blonde Blocker is returning for his junior campaign and the folks around Big Blue Nation couldn’t be more excited. Willie brings some big time athleticism and experience to a team that has the potential to be one of the tallest ever assembled. Here’s what folks around the nation had to say about the tweet that has Lexington fired up for 2015.
The last image of Willie Cauley-Stein on the Kentucky bench won’t be with an electric blue flower-print button-down shirt underneath his jersey.
Whereas Harrell’s return shores up a position of weakness for Louisville, Cauley-Stein’s return further bolsters a position of strength for Kentucky. Between Cauley-Stein, sophomore-to-be Marcus Lee and incoming freshmen Karl Towns and Trey Lyles, Kentucky will have at least four former McDonald’s All-Americans 6-foot-9 and taller next season. And the frontcourt would only get stronger if 7-foot freshman Dakari Johnson and 6-foot-8 sophomore Alex Poythress were also to come back.
“I was as convinced as everyone that Willie was going pro, but when I got the news he was 100 percent coming back I was as shocked as anybody,” Lemond said. “Reporters have sources that you know you can believe 100 percent and this was one. That’s why I was not afraid to say he was going to have good news for Kentucky fans.”
Cauley-Stein has 166 blocks in his career, which ranks sixth all-time in program history. He averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this year and will give Calipari and UK the rim protector it missed after he was hurt this season. It will also give Calipari at least one veteran leader – and perhaps send a message to sophomore Alex Poythress, who is not projected to go nearly as high in the draft as Cauley-Stein was, to also return.
Matt Norlander [Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein tweets he’ll be back for jr. year]
This is big news for Kentucky. Cauley-Stein becomes the latest potential lottery pick to opt out of heading to the NBA, instead choosing to stay the course as an undergrad.
Kentucky, who we already put at No. 7 in our Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one), might well be considered a preseason top five team in many outlets by next fall. Cauley-Stein is one of the few true centers in college hoops. He was felled in the Sweet 16 by a foot injury that kept him out for the remainder of Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament run.
What was your reaction when the news broke a few short hours ago? Mine was the realization that it’s going to be another long summer waiting for basketball to return.