When Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein called himself a veteran, he wiggled his fingers to gesture quotation marks.
“I’m just a sophomore,” he said after UK’s 95-72 exhibition victory over Montevallo Monday night. “I’m still only 20 years old. We’re playing guys 22, 23 years old. They’re veterans. And you’re considered a veteran, and I just turned 20.”
Cauley-Stein put quotation marks around his veteran status in explaining why he apparently received an ultimatum from UK Coach John Calipari. The coach wanted a greater effort to block shots and limit easy scores for the opponent.
“If they’re shooting layups, why should I put you out on the floor?” Cauley-Stein said Calipari asked him at halftime.
To which, Cauley-Stein told reporters, “He’s right.”
Cauley-Stein notched five of his six blocks in the second half.
“I think I get caught up (in) it’s not long since last year,” Cauley-Stein said. “You kind of had to worry, is somebody going to have my back if I leave (a position to block a shot)? This year, it’s not like that. There is going to be somebody to have your back.”
That kind of help will make a big difference, Cauley-Stein said. “That’s when our defense is going to skyrocket.”