NORTH NATOMAS — In the midst of thick, purple smoke swirling around All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins’ and coach George Karl’s fragmented relationship, the Sacramento Kings, with much delight, bring Willie Cauley-Stein into the fold through the NBA Draft.
Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot, 240 pounds center from Kentucky was selected by the Kings with the No. 6 pick. Karl and Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations Vlade Divac were both high on the Olathe, Kansas native when he worked out in Sacramento recently.
Cousins, also a former Wildcat, had expressed interest in playing alongside of Cauley-Stein as well. Despite the circus-like atmosphere that has played out in the national media in the last few days, Cauley-Stein wants to be a King.
“I am talented enough to do a lot of things. I’m gonna go to Sacramento and work my butt off,” Cauley-Stein said at the draft in Brooklyn, New York. “And hopefully bring a championship to the city.”
The Kings are getting a Consensus First Team All-American and Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year out of Willie Cauley-Stein. He averaged 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.2 steals in 25.9 minutes for the Wildcats, who lost in the semifinals of the Final Four against Wisconsin.
Cauley-Stein finished in Kentucky as the only player in school history to record 500 rebounds, 200 blocked shots, and 100 steals. An added dimension needed for the Kings, he holds Kentucky’s record for 233 blocked shots.
It’s no doubt that Cauley-Stein is a rim protector and defense is his forte. His offensive numbers were not much of factor for Kentucky. The Wildcats had many players that could put the ball in hoop.
On the upside, Cauley-Stein made an average of 3.5 baskets out of 6.1 attempts from the floor, which put him at 57.2 percent. Should all the pieces stick together, he won’t have to worry much about offense with Cousins on the block.
A track star, baseball and football player too, Cauley-Stein, who caught more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior receiver in high school, says his basketball shooting is “Gold.”
“A lot of people don’t know it. But they’re going to find out,” he said when he worked out for the Kings a little over a week before the NBA Draft.
Divac, who grew up playing soccer likes the fact that Cauley-Stein was exposed to different sports. He said that exploration shows a commitment to work hard and helps develop other aspects to his game in basketball.
“It’s nice when a kid explores other sports. He picks up a lot different skills,” Divac said of Cauley-Stein. “He’s amazingly fast and has great footwork.”
As far as the reports that Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and Karl were at odds of the the Cousins’ situation, Divac, not in full details, cleared up some things to remind fans he is in total control.
“There was a problem. But it was not Vivek and George. It was me in George,” Divac said. “I respect my coach, I think he’s great, but he has to trust me to do my job.”
As expected 6-11, 250 pounds forward-center Karl Anthony-Towns out of Kentucky was chosen with the No.1 pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Los Angeles Lakers D’Angelo Russell, 6-5 guard from Ohio State with the No. 2 pick.
The Philadelphia 76ers took Duke’s 6-11, 270 pounds center Jahlil Okafor with the No. 3 pick. New York Knicks plucked Spaniard Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 pick, which elicited boos from the Big Apple fans.
Before the Kings jumped on the board, the Orlando Magic chose guard Mario Henzoja, also from Spain, with the fifth pick. Emmanuel Mudiay, 6-5, 200-pound guard was picked after Cauley-Stein by Denver Nuggets.
Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky), Minnesota Timberwolves
D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Los Angeles Lakers
Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Philadelphia 76ers
Kristaps Porzingis (Spain), New York Knicks
Mario Henzoja (Spain), Orlando Magic
Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Sacramento Kings
Emmanual Mudiay (China), Denver Nuggets
Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Detroit Pistons
Frank Kamisky (Wisconsin), Charlotte Hornets
Justise Winslow (Duke), Miami Heat
Myles Turner (Texas), Indiana Pacers
Trey Lyles (Kentucky), Utah Jazz
Devin Booker (Kentucky), Phoenix Suns
Cameron Payne (Murray State), Oklahoma City
Kelly Oubre (Kansas), Atlanta Hawks traded to Washington
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer