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© Dale Zanine[/caption]
The original title of this AP article
is "Confident Cauley-Stein is thriving in mentor role with the Wildcats", however I think it is more about how Willie has found his confidence on and off the court
and less about the players around him.
A short month and a half ago, we all saw a side of Willie Cauley-Stein we had never seen before. WCS was always a strange, but yet still lovable player
on our team. Still. We never understood the inner workings of his mind. His strangeness and the way he stands out has turned him into one of our favorite characters over the year.
In case you missed it, here is the ESPN College Gameday special I am talking about:
Just like we have fell in love with Willie, the players have too.
Now in his junior year, he is a mentor and big brother to the underclassmen who have came after him.
Calipari has always sat his players down at the end of the season
and talked about what is best for them - staying or the NBA. For Willie, he only had to say one thing to Cal to let him stay a part of the Wildcats for another year.
"I said that day after we lost that I have never won a championship before," Cauley-Stein said. "I've never won anything or any crazy awards and I'm coming back to fulfill that spot in my heart. To fulfill that emptiness."
Now Willie says he is on a mission
. (a quote we had a post on yesterday
). That mission may have took longer than expected, but he has finally reached the potential Calipari saw in him .
One that has taken longer than expected in the NBA prep school that doubles as Kentucky basketball under Calipari. Unlike many of his teammates, Cauley-Stein arrived in Lexington less a sure thing than a curiosity. He had the raw materials. What he lacked was the confidence required to mold his game into something better than the sum of his considerable parts.
You may not know this (har har), but Willie played football in high school
, so his love for basketball has had to develop over the years.
And perhaps that's the most important step in Cauley-Stein's development. He admits he spent two years wondering if he belonged. It took being around "alpha males" like Julius Randle and twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison to play with swagger.
"He's getting it," Payne said. "It just happens in stages. It happens in flows. Hopefully somewhere down the road he gets it totally, he keeps it and he never loses it because that athlete is special."
The story is a great one. Read the entire article here.