It’s one thing to tell a young player how to improve. But Willie Cauley-Stein is seeing what it takes to elevate his game.
The Kings’ second-year center is gaining experience and knowledge as a member of the USA Select Team, which is practicing against the U.S. Olympic team in preparation for the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Playing on the Kings’ summer league team and the Select Team has been enlightening for Cauley-Stein.
He’s a defensive beast. He’s a special kid, and I’m excited for his growth with this program, and I know he’s going to come back and help us later on.
DeMarcus Cousins, on Willie Cauley-Stein
“Just the chance to compete with guys that are kind of in your ranking and the other guys that aren’t in your rankings, that’s above you, like DeAndre Jordan, KD (Kevin Durant), Boogie (Kings teammate DeMarcus Cousins), Melo (Carmelo Anthony), all them dudes,” Cauley-Stein said. “So it’s like you get a chance to play against those dudes and see their habits, their work ethic, how do they practice and their routine, and you get to start finding your own routine, and that’s kind of what makes a player anyways. You get to see guys who have been doing it for years and make your own routine off theirs.”
After Cauley-Stein showed promise as a rookie, the Kings want him to progress at both ends of the court. But Cauley-Stein still faces a learning curve.
Cauley-Stein also admitted he was not in the best shape during summer league and said he was working to get into better condition for this week’s practices.
The center said he already feels better, but he added he needs to be in prime condition to display the athleticism he had as a rookie.
“I’m in a lot better playing shape I would say, but you know how I was last year,” Cauley-Stein said. “My motor’s got to be high, and for the next two months, I’ve got to hit it really, really hard to get my playing where I can bounce, bounce, boom, boom, boom and back and up and down, just flying around and making plays. That’s really my motive for the next two to three months.”
If Cauley-Stein brings that mindset into the regular season, the Kings already might consider his stint with the Select Team a success.
Cousins benefited from his time with the Select Team in 2012 and worked his way up to the U.S. national team in 2014. He said working with the Select Team will aid Cauley-Stein.
“I just think this program helps you grow as a player,” Cousins said. “Being around all this talent helps you realize the smaller things that you miss a lot of in the regular season. Usually when we go to our respective teams, we have much bigger responsibilities. Here, there’s not as much pressure, but there’s more pressure to do the small, detailed things. It helps you pick up on the small things, and once you go back, you’re aware of those small things in addition to your other responsibilities. I just think it improves you as an overall player.”
I’m in a lot better playing shape I would say, but you know how I was last year. My motor’s got to be high, and for the next two months, I’ve got to hit it really, really hard to get my playing where I can bounce, bounce, boom, boom, boom and back and up and down, just flying around and making plays. That’s really my motive for the next two to three months.
Cousins and Cauley-Stein were on opposing teams during Tuesday’s practice. Cousins said the practices “definitely help you get to the next level” and noted Cauley-Stein’s performance.
“He’s a defensive beast,” Cousins said. “He’s a special kid, and I’m excited for his growth with this program, and I know he’s going to come back and help us later on.”