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By LARRY VAUGHT
It didn’t take Willie Cauley-Stein long to impress Kentucky coach John Calipari, which was not a huge surprise to Mike Groves, Cauley-Stein’s Olathe Northwest High School coach in Kansas.
“Willie is just an unbelievable athlete. There is no ceiling to his athletic ability,” said Groves about the 6-11 forward/center who is going through limited summer workouts with Calipari and his teammates. “If he buys into what they are preaching and drinks their Kool-Ade, he will just get better and better. I am not surprised that he has impressed Cal because I know the gifts he has. If he puts in the work and continues to develop a strong work ethic, he will be a great player at Kentucky.”
He’s part of UK’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class, but he’s not as highly rated as Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin or Alex Poythress. However, he runs the court well, which is not a surprise considering he was a standout receiver for his football team during the 2011 season and averaged over 100 yards receiving per game while playing in Kansas’ largest classification of football.
“He was recruited by everyone in the United States,” Groves said. “His thing is he is not polished. He was more of a defensive presence for us because of his athletic ability. He’s got to shore up his offensive game. When you are that special athletically, you can get away with some things. With the coaching and resources he will have at Kentucky, I think he will get way better offensively.
“I don’t think anyone looked past his talent. I think they all saw his potential and just that he was not polished offensively.”
Groves said several things stood out to Calipari immediately when he recruited Cauley-Stein.
“He just liked the way he ran, his timing, his jumping ability,” Groves said. “Willie does a lot of things you can’t coach. He just has unbelievable athleticism. If he continues to buy in and wants to be good, the gifts are there.
“He is not a physically weak person, but he has also never been in a regimented weight program. He’ll have those resources at Kentucky and having to be there and lift, he will gain weight and get stronger. Before he had the time to do it, but never really saw the need because of his athleticism. That changes at Kentucky now.”
Next: More with Groves on his former star player’s personality.