LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Willie Cauley-Stein says he's coming back for his junior season at Kentucky.
The 7-footer who missed this season's UK Final Four run after injuring his ankle in the Wildcats' Sweet 16 win over Louisville announced on Twitter tonight that he's coming back.
His return is huge for Kentucky -- and not just physically. Cauley-Stein, who has the size to be an elite rim protector but the agility to pick up smaller players on the perimeter, is one of the top defensive game-changers in college basketball.
John Calipari, who is traveling to promote his new book, "Players First," which hits shelves on Tuesday, welcomed the decision.
"I'm happy for Willie and also proud of him for making the best decision for him and his family," Calipari said in a release from the school. "Being in school for at least three years will get him closer to having a degree and will help him prepare for the next level and life afterwards." Cauley-Stein said sitting on the sidelines during the Final Four was difficult, and he wants to a chance to take the program back. "I want to come back and have a chance to win a national championship while also getting closer to earning my degree," Cauley-Stein said in a release. "Being at the Final Four this year was special, but not being able to help my teammates on the floor was tough. I look forward to helping us get back there next year while playing in front of the best fans in the nation."
Cauley-Stein earned All-Southeastern Conference Defensive Team honors last season, the sixth UK player in the last five seasons to do that. His 106 blocks last season are second on the school's single-season list, second only to Anthony Davis, who had 186 in 2012. His 166 career blocks rank sixth in program history. He averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game last season.
Others UK players who have decisions to make in the draft, including Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress, will be announced at a later date.
But Cauley-Stein's return, with the addition of 7-footer Karl Towns and 6-10 Trey Lyles, means UK should have the nation's top-rated frontcourt headed into next season.