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April 14, 2014

Cauley-Stein to return for junior season

Willie Cauley-Stein is off the fence.

Kentucky's 7-foot forward announced on Twitter Monday that he'll return for his junior season. He had considered entering the NBA Draft, where he was projected as a first-round selection.

"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 release. "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 injured an ankle against Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 and aggravated the injury against Louisville in the Sweet 16.

He missed Kentucky's last four NCAA Tournament games. After Connecticut ended the Wildcats' season with a loss in the title game, Cauley-Stein said he was conflicted about whether or not to return to school.

"I love being at Kentucky," Cauley-Stein said then. "I love the fan base. I love the community. I love the people there. So it's like, why not stay until they make you leave? It just gets better as you get older. So there's just so many different things that go through my head about it. But then there's that other thing: millions of dollars, able to work on your game -- only on your game, and really develop who you are without trying to balance out school, because that's a full-time job, too. It's tough to play here at Kentucky and balance out your school work."

Cauley-Stein averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore and was named to the All-Southeastern Conference Defensive Team.

Cauley-Stein also moved into a tie for second place in the single-season standings for blocks with 106 on the year. Only Anthony Davis (186) had more in a single season. That total also ranked in the top 10 nationally for the year.

The 7-foot sophomore has totaled 166 blocks in his career, which ranks sixth all-time in program history.

"I'm happy for Willie and also proud of him for making the best decision for him and his family," head coach John Calipari said. "Being in school for at least three years will get him closer to having a degree and will help him prepare for the next level and life afterwards."

Strickland Joining Antigua
Rod Strickland is leaving the Kentucky staff to become an assistant coach on Orlando Antigua's first staff at South Florida. Strickland had been a special assistant on Calipari's UK staff.

The move had been reported last week but was made official with a news release from South Florida on Monday. Antigua, an assistant to Calipari at Memphis and Kentucky, was named USF's head coach earlier this month.

"I worked very closely with Rod for the past six years and he is ready for this next step up in his coaching career," Antigua said in a release. "We had a chance to work together for a hall of fame coach at Kentucky in John Calipari. Rod has tremendous knowledge for the game and will be a great asset for the program."

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