By LARRY VAUGHT
By Willie Cauley-Stein’s logic, there was no reason for him to be the least bit nervous in his Kentucky debut at last week’s Blue-White game.
“I don’t have any expectations. Everybody else does. I just go out and play,” Cauley-Stein said after the game.
The freshman center had an impressive debut with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. However, he was far from pleased.
“I still I think I could have hustled more. In both halves, I only had six hustle points. For myself, I need to get double-digit hustle points on top of double-digit one-on-one points. Also playing defense and trying to get loose balls and more rebounds,” Cauley-Stein said.
He says hustle points come from things such as grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring or retrieving a ball knocked out of someone else’s hands and scoring.
“The coaches keep up with all that stuff for us,” he said.
However, when it comes to gauging effort, Cauley-Stein said Kentucky coach John Calipari carefully monitors that daily.
“He preaches every day once he sees you take one play off you are coming out, because obviously you are tired and are not going hard enough,” he said. “He keeps saying at the game you will only be able to play three minutes and you are coming out. He says that to everybody because everybody will be tired. So once we get out of the grind of things and you get in your mind that you can go harder than a few minutes, that is when your game will escalate.”
Cauley-Stein came to Kentucky for Calipari to “escalate” his game, and he says that’s why hustle points matter to him.
“I think that is just pride. If you are going to get hustle points, that is easy points. If you are going harder than the other guy and grab the rebound and go up with it, that is just extra points you are going to add on,” he said. “Now you have those points, and you get your points by going one-on-one with somebody and that you get your 20-point, 30-point game because you get hustle points and they don’t.”
He admits he was not quite ready for the pace Calipari demands daily.
“Coach Cal moves at a really fast pace. You always have to be … most kids will space off when your coach is talking to you or talking to everybody in a group, a lot of people will space off. With coach Cal, you can’t afford to space off or your will miss something. When you do that, you are in big trouble,” Cauley-Stein said.
He noted that before the Blue-White game that the team had a pregame meal, film session and one other thing — a run-through.
“It was not a walk-through, because it was more like a run-through. We just did everything like it would be on a regular game day,” he laughed and said.
Perhaps that’s why Cauley-Stein and the perceived second team jumped out to a big lead over the expected starters in the intrasquad scrimmage.
“That’s what we do every day in practice. We play against them every day. Me and Julius (Mays) are one of seven guys that will get a lot of playing time, so we have to go at them like that. Otherwise it will be ugly,” he said.
He also said not to believe that he outplayed Nerlens Noel, the nation’s top-ranked recruit, in the scrimmage.
“It is not really a badge of honor to frustrate him. You are just making him better. But he was also hurt tonight,” Cauley-Stein said after the game. “He took that spill in the first half. He wasn’t getting the ball a lot, so I would be frustrated, too. But at the end of the day, you have to come back and go back at it the next day to get better.
“But you could tell he was hurt. He wasn’t going as hard, going as fast, running the floor and stuff. You could tell he was hurt. He’s a lot better than what you saw.”
That philosophy is what Calipari wants his players to have when it comes to looking after each other.
“Right now we are really close, but we need to come together more. The biggest thing he preaches to us right now is to come together, be friendly, go out to eat with each other, play video games together, and just be around each other and the court stuff is going to take care of itself,” Cauley-Stein said.