Kentucky coach John Calipari believes that if you want to be good at something you have to learn to love it. And last year he wanted his 7-foot freshman center, Willie Cauley-Stein, to be good at reading. So he created a book club for the two of them and gave Cauley-Stein a series of texts to absorb and discuss. Cauley-Stein dutifully read Calipari’s offerings — The Energy Bus, God Never Blinks, The Little Book of Talent — and periodically shared his impressions with his coach. For Cauley-Stein, who wasn’t in the habit of reading much outside of class assignments, it was an eye-opening experience. He was particularly taken with the stories of people persevering through adversity that he found in God Never Blinks. “That book gave me a different perspective on life,” he says.
That was Calipari’s short-term goal. And as for the bigger picture, a new love of reading and learning — Cauley-Stein now tucks into bed every night with a tome of thought-provoking prose, right? “Um, no,” he says. Big Blue Nation can take heart, however, because Calipari’s other attempt at sparking long-lasting enthusiasm in the laid-back Kansan has been a success. After initially reeling from the shock of the hard work required to get through workouts and practices in Lexington, Cauley-Stein has embraced the basketball grind. “You learn how to do it, then you fall in love with it,” he says.