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Report: John Calipari believed Willie Cauley-Stein wouldn’t return to Kentucky

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After Kentucky fell to UConn in the national title game, Wildcat head coach John Calipari believed that sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein would enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

With Cauley-Stein’s combination of size, athleticism and upside it was a realistic possibility that he could have been selected in the lottery of this year’s draft.

According to a report from the Courier-Journal‘s Kyle Tucker, Calipari sat down with Cauley-Stein after the loss and acted as if he was already gone.

From Tucker:

Calipari has a rule: If you’re going to be a first-round pick, and especially if you’re a potential lottery pick, get out. Take the money and run. He figured Cauley-Stein, a skilled sophomore 7-footer who already passed up the draft once, would heed that advice.

“The conversation we had the next morning after the national championship game was congratulating him. ‘I’m proud of you,’ ” Calipari said. “He was a top-15 pick. And he came in my office the following day and said, ‘I want to come back.’ ”

It shocked Calipari, but he couldn’t argue with Cauley-Stein’s logic.

“He said, ‘One, I’m having a ball. Two, I’m not ready for that league, to do what I want to do. Three, I want to win a (championship) before I leave,’ ” Calipari remembers. “Well then it’s good reasons to come back.”

With Calipari’s track record for producing NBA first-round draft picks at Kentucky, it’s no surprise that he believed Cauley-Stein had one foot out the door in Lexington after the 2013-14 season.

But between the sophomore center’s list of reasons for coming back and the ankle injury he sustained in the Sweet 16 win over Louisville, he also has plenty of reasons to come back.

And with all of the McDonald’s All-Americans Kentucky has in the front court between Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, and incoming freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles, it’s not as if Cauley-Stein won’t be battling talented big men every day during practice.

Cauley-Stein can still just as easily be a lottery pick in a 2015 NBA Draft — which is expected to be weaker than last week’s draft — and he can potentially win a national championship while doing it. As long as he stays healthy, it’s hard to knock him for that.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.