While it remains unlikely University of Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein will play Saturday night's Final Four game against Wisconsin, the 7-foot sophomore said Friday: "Don't count me out yet." Cauley-Stein, who ranks second in school history with 106 blocked shots this season, injured his left ankle early in the first half of the Wildcats' Sweet 16 victory over Louisville. He missed the rest of that game and was on crutches for UK's win over Michigan in the Elite Eight. But Cauley-Stein has been out of his protective boot and off the crutches the last two days at AT&T Stadium. He was in basketball gear — although not a practice jersey — and put up a few shots as the Cats warmed up for their open practice here Friday. Cauley-Stein, who is still walking with a limp and said he hasn't attempted running yet, did participate in the actual practice. "I'm still figuring out if I want to give it a try or not," he said. "There's always a possibility. It's kind of up to me and my family if I want to give it a try or not." He claims not to know the exact diagnosis, saying it was first believed to be a "really bad sprain," so swollen initially that an X-ray was inconclusive. Asked if he might have a stress fracture, Cauley-Stein said, "it could be that; I really don't know. I wasn't really listening when I was in the doctor's. I was checked out." So the mystery continues. Cauley-Stein said he does worry about further injury if he tries to play this weekend. He's a projected top-15 pick in the next NBA draft and could jeopardize that by giving it a go on a bad ankle. "That's kind of the unknown is could it get worse," said Cauley-Stein, who is agonizing over potentially missing the Final Four. "This is what you come to school for. This is what you work so hard for and then to have it taken away from you is really heartbreaking. You just kind of have to lose yourself in your teammates and be happy for what they're accomplishing and just enjoy the ride with them." He said he's heard hopeful fans compare his situation to that of Willis Reed, who with a torn thigh muscle limped onto the court unexpectedly for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals and scored two quick baskets — enough to inspire his New York Knicks — before the pain became too much. Could he repeat that feat? "I think it depends on your injury," Cauley-Stein said. "It being in my foot and my ankle, like you really can't move laterally or anything like that. You can just limp or kind of hobble around. If it was on my like thigh or my hip or something like that it would be easier, and I would feel like all that weight's not directly on that spot that's hurting."
Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein: Don't count me out
Louisville Courier-Journal | Apr 5