BOZICH | Hurting Cauley-Stein Heartbroken By Injury
ARLINGTON, Texas (WDRB) – When they opened the doors to the University of Kentucky locker room at AT&T Stadium Friday, Willie Cauley-Stein was sitting with assistant coach Kenny Payne, away from his teammates.
There was no protective boot on the ankle that he injured earlier in the NCAA Tournament, first against Kansas State and then more severely against Louisville on March 28. Cauley-Stein was not using crutches to navigate the room. But his gait was slow -- and a bit unsteady.
And while the reasonable forecast is to say that Cauley-Stein will not be able to play against Wisconsin Saturday night in the NCAA Final Four, the UK center was not prepared to say that his 2014 season is over.
Here is a transcript of a conversation with Cauley-Stein. I've edited the questions for space reasons.
It does not appear that you are playing Saturday. Is that an accurate?
CAULEY-STEIN: "Don't count me out yet. I don't know yet. I'm still figuring it out if I want to give it a try or not."
Did you try to practice Thursday?
C-S: "No. No, I just watched. I just stood there and watched."
Is it a legitimate possibility that you will play? Or are you just hoping you wake up (Saturday) and feel better?
C-S: "I mean, there's always a possibility. It's kind of up to me and my family if I want to give it a try or not."
Is there a risk of re-injury that you're considering?
C-S: "I mean, yeah, it could get worse or it could stay the same. That's kind of the unknown. It could get worse. I could have to do something worse than I thought I was going to have to."
Do you know what the specific injury is yet?
C-S: "Nah. They thought it was a really bad sprain. There's so many different things. It was swollen so when they took the X-ray on it you couldn't really tell anything."
Some people have said it's a stress fracture. Is that a possibility?
C-S: "It could be that. I really don't know. I really wasn't listening when I was in the doctor's (office) anyway. I just checked out."
Has this been really painful, emotionally painful, not being able to help your teammates or has their success lifted your spirit?
C-S: "I mean, definitely. It's the NCAA Tournament. This is what you come to school for. This is what you work so hard for. To have it taken away from you, it's really heart-breaking. You kind of just have to lose yourself in your teammates and be happy for what they're accomplishing and just enjoy the ride with it."
John Calipari has said Kentucky could really use you during this match-up because Frank Kaminsky, the Wisconsin center, who is 7 feet, loves to play away from the basket. Wouldn't your athleticism be essential to guarding Kaminsky?
C-S: "Definitely. Right after we won the Louisville game. He was thinking the same thing of how perfect the next two games would have been to play in. You could easily say that. But it also could be a blessing. Who knows? The kid (Kaminsky) could torch me. I couldn't play. It could be a blessing in disguise."
Athletes who play through pain, delivering in games when they were supposed to be sidelined, create legends. Is that a script that you envision, one of those one-time only appearances?
C-S: "I think it depends on your injury. It being in my foot and my ankle, I really can't move laterally or anything like that. You can just limp or hobble around. If it was in my thigh or my hip, it would be easier to move around. I wouldn't feel like all that weight is directly on the spot that's hurt."
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