CRAWFORD | For UK, Goldie Blocks is the big, bad wolf
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Willie Cauley-Stein had just taken about the six straight question about his blonde dye job after Tuesday night's 70-55 victory over Boise State when he finally said, "Are we ever going to talk about basketball?"
Now that you mention it, the most famous blonde player in Lexington since Jay Shidler is building more substance in his game all the time.
He showed up for Tuesday night's contest having gone all blonde. One Twitter poster kicked out the nickname "Goldie Blocks." Seems fitting.
Cauley-Stein had a pretty straightforward assessment of the result: "Yeah. I mean, you put blonde in your hair, it's going to turn blonde."
But when the talk turns to basketball, there's more substance than style to Cauley-Stein. And that may be saying something.
Think about this. Through 10 games in his freshman season, Anthony Davis had 44 blocked shots. Through 10 games this season, Cauley-Stein has 43 (in nine more minutes, by the way.) Against Boise State, he had six points, seven rebounds and nine blocks. It's the second time in three games he's had nine blocks in a game.
Here's the thing about Cauley-Stein: No single player in college basketball affects a game when he's in it the way Cauley-Stein does when he's on the court for the Wildcats.
"He blocked nine shots," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "And he probably altered 10 more. . . . Some of the things they do, it's like me with my 10-year-old son in the driveway."
Calipari likened Cauley-Stein's game Tuesday night to another player who dyed his hair but came to play.
"There's two things I said I'm not: I'm not the tattoo police and I'm not the hair police," Calipari said. "I don't care how you make your hair look. I'll say this, looking like that, you better play, Willie. There was a guy that used to do that to his hair. He also wore wedding dresses. But he killed you. He would shut you out and get every rebound, play 40 minutes. Then I saw him on the treadmill after the game in our building. Who is on the treadmill in there? Coaching the Nets. It was (Dennis) Rodman. He played 40 minutes, had like 18 rebounds, and he went on the treadmill. You can paint your hair all you want; just be like him."
Cauley-Stein isn't quite Rodman. But he does alter shots he's not even close to. Just the threat of him looming around the rim is enough to unsettle players driving to the basket. Well, most players. Not all.
It didn't seem to shake Baylor much. For Calipari, players who are able to match Cauley-Stein's size, or come close to it, and play more physically against him represent a final step for the 7-1 sophomore.
"Here is the problem now. What happened last game?" Calipari said. "The game was very physical. He didn't perform. So that's his last challenge. That's his last test. When it gets physical, will he get lower and play that kind of game? Because when he gets that, it's on. Right now he does not have that. If the game gets real physical, he gets tired, he stands up and gets knocked around. That leverage of getting low, he doesn't know it yet. Also making shots. He may fade on that (against physical opponents) versus the way he's playing right now, which is attacking the basket."
That kind of test is right around the corner for Cauley-Stein. North Carolina has good length, good depth inside, and will have no problem matching UK athletically. Cauley-Stein said he is going into the game with the goal of imposing himself physically instead of reacting to the way the opponent is playing.
"They're going to do what everybody tries to do," he said. "From the tip, they're going to try to come out and punk us. It's going to be intense. We're not going to get any calls, because we never do."
Timeout. What's that? Lexington Herald-Leader Jerry Tipton had to ask for clarification on that one. What did you mean by "no calls" Willie?
"You know what I meant by it," Cauley-Stein said. "You're just trying to play me, Jerry."
With all the focus on the freshmen for this UK basketball team, the player who matters most right now is a sophomore who is growing in ability and maturity.
Right now, Willie Cauley-Stein is golden. With the hair to match.
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