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From the Pressbox: High school coach raves about Cauley-Stein

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Last week, the Big Blue Nation celebrated the Wildcats' storied basketball tradition during the Alumni Charity Game, an event John Calipari hopes is on its way to becoming an annual affair. Now, the focus will shift toward the present-day Cats.  

It's not long before Coach Cal will be showing off his new team at Big Blue Madness, but thanks to Twitter, UK fans get plenty of regular updates. And one consistent theme in recent months has been Calipari's positive vibes about freshman 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, the least-hyped member of UK's latest top-ranked recruiting class.

One person who is not surprised about the promise Cauley-Stein has flashed is his high school coach, Mike Grove.

"The sky is the limit for Willie Cauley. Great hands, great feet, great length. He really has upside that is off the charts," said Grove, who coached Cauley-Stein at Olathe Northwest (Kan.) High School.  "He buys into Coach Calipari's system, buys into working hard and training the proper way. You got a big athletic specimen there who can really explode.

"I only had him for two years. He has an uncanny passing ability. He is very, very unselfish. He can lead the break and he can put the ball on the floor. He has some uncanny abilities that you would see in a 6'3 or 6'4 guy but he is a seven-footer."

Grove said he saw a great improvement in Cauley-Stein's work ethic during the two years that Grove coached him and he sees nothing but continued growth.

"His best attributes are his strength and his athleticism," Grove said earlier this summer on "The Leach Report" radio show. "He is a big-time shot blocker. Not only does he have the size and the length but he has uncanny timing. His hands are really, really special."

Calipari has raved about Cauley-Stein's ability to run the floor and Grove says athleticism is why he thinks "the sky is the limit" for his former pupil.

"You get a guy that is 6-foot-11, 7-foot that has those kinds of attributes and there are only a few amount of guys that can do that and I think his athleticism and his upside is what Kentucky fans should be excited about and hopefully watching and seeing what happens for him over the next year or so. I think he still has a learning curve but I think as he continues to learn and drive himself - wow, he can be a special, special player there," Grove predicted.

One of the most amazing facts about Cauley-Stein is that he played football as a wide receiver through his prep career.

"He is a well-rounded kid who, in his early years, was playing three or four sports. He played baseball, basketball and football and I think that is one of the things that really helped him - his eye-hand coordination and his feet - those things are not broken and when he gets to Kentucky, those things are already there. They won't really have to fix those things and as long as he continues to buy into what they are preaching and working hard," noted Grove.  "He is going to be very, very good. It didn't surprise me in football because he is that athletic. He is that unbelievably athletic."

Grove says Cauley-Stein did not do much weightlifting in high school but having embraced the contact on the gridiron should help the big man handle the physical demands that come with a transition to  college basketball.

At Olathe Northwest, Grove says Cauley-Stein was mostly a face-up big man and the coach thinks Calipari's system and the versatile skill sets big guys can display in it was appealing to Cauley-Stein.

"I think the dribble drive motion, where they play the post players away from the basket a little bit, appealed to him because he wasn't a straight back-to-the-back post player and never really wanted that. I think the other thing that appealed is the high success rate for Coach Cal and his staff and how they have prepared players and produced players for the NBA and the whole mystique of Kentucky basketball and that big blue fan base down there," Grove said.  "I think that just all appealed to him. He wants to be the best basketball player he can become and I think he felt that Kentucky was the right place for him."

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