September 20, 2011

Calipari sees hoops prospect Cauley on the gridiron

John Calipari is touring the country visiting basketball open gyms and the homes of the prospects he's most hotly pursuing, but the Kentucky coach also got to check out a little high school football last Friday.

Calipari and UK assistants Kenny Payne and Orlando Antigua stopped in Olathe, Kan., to watch one of their basketball targets, four-star center Willie Cauley, outreach defenders as a 6-foot-10 wide receiver for the Northwest High School football team.

It was the second visit of the day for UK's coaches to a Kansas prospect; they were at the home of Wichita Heights five-star forward Perry Ellis earlier that day.

Olathe Northwest basketball coach Mike Grove said Calipari and the staff also stopped by Cauley's home while they were in town.

Grove said he thinks that it was the first time Calipari had met face to face with Cauley, a shot-blocking specialist ranked as the nation's No. 39 prospect.

"I believe Coach Cal did get the chance to sit down at the house after the game," Grove said. " ... (Cauley) said it went real well. He thought Coach Cal was very professional about how he does things, and he's excited about Kentucky. He's still up in the air about what he's going to do, but he knows Kentucky is an unbelievable program with an unbelievable coach. He's just kind of weighing his options right now."

It was also Grove's first time meeting Calipari, and he said Calipari sat in some light rain to watch Cauley's football game.

"He seemed like a great guy, obviously is a great coach," Grove said. "I think he's very intrigued by Willie with his size and athleticism, and hopefully it'll be a good fit if it comes to fruition.

"... We just kind of engaged in some small talk, and I think he was mostly there just to take in the football game and see how Willie moved and how he played on the football field, so we didn't really get into that great length talking about his (basketball) abilities. Those guys all know that. They all know his ability by now. It was just a chance to get to meet."

Cauley had five catches for 90 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown, in the football game - a 23-20 Olathe Northwest loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest.

"He's a legit wide receiver," Grove said of his basketball star. "Obviously somebody that big attracts a lot of attention. High school cornerbacks, that's tough for them. They have to put two people on him a lot of times. If it's a fade or something, it's hard (for a defender) because they just throw it up, and he'll jump over top of them and catch balls. He's definitely a threat and has got six or seven touchdowns in three games."

But Cauley's future is on the hardwood, and his ability to block shots, rebound and get out in transition make him an elite prospect.

"I think (Calipari is) intrigued by his athleticism and his length," Grove said. "Being close to 7 feet and being able to run and jump and have long arms like that, there's not a lot of guys out there like that."

Cauley took an official visit to Florida over the weekend, and Grove confirmed that Cauley will officially visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 14. He said Cauley has a UK scholarship offer.

The coach said Cauley will also visit Alabama and Kansas State, but Grove wasn't sure of the dates.

Grove said Cauley is no longer strongly considering Oklahoma State, which had been in his final five.

"Those are his final schools - Kentucky, Florida, Alabama and Kansas State," Grove said. " ... I don't think (Oklahoma State is) in the mix right now."

Cauley said in an interview with CatsIllustrated.com last month that Calipari watched him play at July events in Akron, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisc., and that Antigua evaluated him in Phoenix later in the month. Payne attended an open-gym workout for Cauley back in April.

Grove said Cauley's on-court motor and aggressiveness got better over the summer.

"The biggest (improvement) to this point is his ability to compete and being more active and having a little more discipline about how he approaches thing," Grove said. "When he does that and is active, running and jumping and blocking shots, it shows his game is improving. He's still got some work to do on the offensive end, to polish up some things, but his activity level has improved over the summer time."

A UK coach - Payne reportedly - had a previous home visit with Cauley a couple weeks ago while Calipari was in Argentina coaching the Dominican Republic national team.

Calipari posted on Twitter during that time that he had taken in part in some unspecified in-home visits by speakerphone from South America, and Cauley is believed to be one of the prospects he spoke with.

Grove said he wasn't sure the details of UK's earlier home visit with Cauley except to know it took place. He didn't know whether Calipari had called in on the speakerphone or what he said.



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