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January 18, 2013The injury is old. The fix is new. The prognosis is unclear.
That's the status of Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein who underwent a minor procedure this week on his left knee and whose status for the Wildcats' game at Auburn on Saturday is to be determined.
"He probably is going to come back after a short period and be rested and ready to go, I would imagine," UK coach John Calipari said. "But he'll be weight training and doing anything else and running and all the other stuff, so he'll be fine."
It was unclear as of Friday whether Cauley-Stein would travel with the Wildcats (11-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to Auburn. And though Calipari didn't rule out the possibility that Cauley-Stein could play against the Tigers, he expected that UK would be "one (player) short for a short while."
"It shortens (the rotation) a little bit," forward Kyle Wiltjer said. "Guys are going to have to step up. We'll be ready."
Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot, 244-pound forward from Olathe, Kan., averages 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He's played in all 16 games this season and has started the past five.
Calipari didn't detail how Kentucky would alter its rotation if Cauley-Stein can't play, but guard Ryan Harrow said the Cats likely would go small to start - with Alex Poythress at power forward - and keep Wiltjer as the team's sixth man.
"I think he's still going to be coming off the bench to give us the scoring off the bench," Harrow said. "But it's just a time for all of us to step up a little bit."
Cauley-Stein leaves a void to fill - he's averaged 7.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his five starts - but Calipari noted that he's hardly been UK's most productive player.
"The impact if he doesn't play is that we're one short of where we were," Calipari said. "But against Duke he played six minutes. Maryland, he was not a factor. So what happens is, other guys got to step up and play."
Cauley-Stein's injury dates back to junior high school, Calipari said, and had bothered him in recent weeks. There were times, Calipari said, when Cauley-Stein would take himself out of games or stop running during a shootaround.
The injury was "nothing major," Calipari said, but Kentucky opted to have Cauley-Stein go through what the school called a "minor procedure" on Thursday. Citing student privacy laws, UK declined to provide further details.
"And let me say this: We didn't have to do anything," Calipari said. "It could've been, 'You're fine. Put the knee sleeve on and go.' But as you know, that's not how we operate here. If I err, I'm going to err on the side of the kid. Let's just be safe."
In theory, Kentucky can afford to play it safe against Auburn (8-8, 2-1 SEC), which starts only one player taller than 6-foot-6. But Calipari suggested that the Tigers' lack of size is "why it would have been better for us to have another big guy."
And Calipari insisted that Auburn is no pushover. The Tigers, coached by Tony Barbee - who played for and coached under Calipari - will play with great effort, and suggested that the Tigers are further along in their development than are the Cats.
"What's happened is, Auburn has bought into how they're going to have to play," Calipari said. "We have not."
Calipari said the game could be "one of those ones that will maybe bring guys together." The Tigers have their first sellout of the season. The environment figures to be hostile.
And the odds are good that UK will be down a man. Cauley-Stein's long-term prognosis, though, is unclear.
For now, he's handling the uncertainty.
"He's good," Harrow said. "When you talk to him, he's laughing and still cheerful and stuff like that. I think he's handling it pretty good."