Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein decides to return for junior year at Kentucky

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While it might not be the transcendent draft it was cracked up to be at one point, this is still a pretty deep NBA Draft coming up in June.

That seems to have impacted Willie Cauley-Stein. Rather than come out this year and likely get selected late in the lottery, he has decided to return to Kentucky for another season, the university announced on Monday.

“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 released statement. “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, a 7-foot center, would have been taken in the 11-14 range and seen as a project, said PBT’s NBA Draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld.

“Long and athletic, and has shown some nice improvement from last season when he was forced into major minutes after Noel’s knee injury,” Isaacson told PBT before the NCAA Tournament. “Great rim protector with uncanny timing on his block attempts, and he has also turned into a good defender in pick-and-roll situations. He is still very raw on the offensive end, though a lot better than he was last year. Has added a go-to post move, but his best offense comes from running the floor in transition. He was very inconsistent the last 4 or 5 weeks of this season, to the point of being benched.”

Isaacson said if he shows the same level of improvement between this season and next that he did after last season he will be a certain Top 10 pick next season.

The challenge will be it’s a crowded Kentucky front court next year, Isaacson notes, especially if Dakari Johnson is back, plus Karl Towns and Trey Lyles.

There’s a risk with going back to school for a potential lottery pick, lets hope this works out for Cauley-Stein.