Sweet Sixteen notes: UK signee Willis predicts where 'Big Three' recruits are headed

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2013 

Former Bullitt East forward Derek Willis. The University of Kentucky signee is workout out at UK and practicing with the Kentucky All-Stars.

PHOTO BY TIMOTHY D. EASLEY — Lexington Herald-Leader

Bullitt East didn't make it back to the Sweet Sixteen, but University of Kentucky signee Derek Willis was in Rupp Arena on Friday to pick up his 6th Region player of the year award.

Willis, wearing a blue UK shirt, talked to reporters after receiving the award and offered some predictions on the "Big Three" recruits still on John Calipari's radar.

He was most confident about Julius Randle, who will announce his college decision March 20.

"I think Randle's probably a lock," Willis said. "That's my opinion. He could do whatever, but I think he'll come."

Randle has narrowed his list to UK, Kansas, Texas and Florida.

Next up was Andrew Wiggins, and Willis is just as perplexed as everyone else by that recruitment.

"As far as Wiggins goes, I've tried to figure him out," he said. "I've read everything about him. I've looked him up. I don't know. I know UK is one of his top two choices, I would say."

Willis had great things to say about Aaron Gordon, but he doesn't think the San Jose, Calif., native will end up in Lexington. "He's on the West Coast, I'd say. I don't think he'll (go) that far away."

Willis was also watching Madison Central senior guard Dominique Hawkins, whom he said would be a good addition to UK's class of 2013.

"He's tough and real athletic, strong. If we added him to our recruiting class, it'd be a good pickup, I think," he said.

Next up for Willis will be the Derby Festival Classic at Freedom Hall in April. He's hoping to enroll at UK for summer classes and wants to add 20-25 pounds (he's at about 200 now).

Maybe his summer job can help him in that department. Willis said his girlfriend helped him get a part-time gig at the McAlister's Deli in Fern Creek.

"I'll be serving sandwiches to people for a little bit," he said with a laugh.

Richie remembers

It was 25 years ago this month that Clay County's Richie Farmer solidified his status as a legend when he scored 51 points in a loss to Allan Houston-led Ballard in the Sweet Sixteen finals in Louisville's Freedom Hall.

Farmer hit a record nine three-pointers on his way to setting a title-game scoring record, but it wasn't enough as Ballard won 88-79.

Farmer said all he can remember from that historic night "was wanting to win so bad and trying to do everything in my power to win.

"You've heard a lot of people talk about being in the zone. I got in the zone, and the rest is history. When the game was over, I had no idea I had 51 points."

Was it the best game he ever played? Farmer said he's never critiqued his own work, but others have done it for him.

"Coming to the Sweet Sixteen for so many years and running into people from all over the state, people that have been coming here for 20, 30, 40, 50, even 60 years, they invariably tell me that was the greatest high school performance they ever saw.

"That puts it in perspective that it must've been a pretty special night."

Farmer was in Rupp on Thursday night to watch Clay County in the tournament for the first time since 2001. He was happy to see his former coach (and fellow legend) Bobby Keith on the bench as the Tigers' honorary coach.

"I think that's outstanding," Farmer said.

Ball boy to player

Madison Central's Daniel Parke is in familiar territory at the Sweet Sixteen.

The son of Eastern Kentucky University athletic business manager David Parke, Daniel served as a Sweet Sixteen ball boy for five or six years. The last time was when he was a fifth- or sixth-grader, he said.

"I've been to every Sweet Sixteen since I was probably, like, 2. It's crazy to think that I'm going out there playing this time. It's awesome," said Parke, who played 32 minutes Friday despite having a fever.

"I dreamed about (playing here), but it didn't hit me like I could do that. It's just amazing to be able to play on that court with all these fans," Parke said.

KABC Court of Honor

Eight coaches were admitted to the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches' Court of Honor. They were recognized during the Sweet Sixteen on Friday.

The honorees:

■ Kerry Stovall. who had more than 300 victories, including six region titles, and led Christian County to the 2011 state championship.

■ Tony Hopper, who's won more than 400 games and has led three schools (Central City, Muhlenberg North and Apollo) to the state tournament.

■ Corky Cox, who was a success at Hodgenville and LaRue County, winning almost 300 games and three region titles.

■ Bob Eades won almost 400 games in 21 years at Walton-Verona, Paris and Grant County. His teams won three region titles.

■ Cary Barr, a multi-sport coach at Paris, led the Greyhounds' basketball teams to more than 400 wins.

■ Donnie Harville, an assistant to Jock Sutherland at Lafayette when the Generals won the 1979 state title, he took the reins from Jock and won more than 300 games at Lafayette.

■ Herb Tye led Barbourville for almost 40 years.

■ Arthur "Mock" Mullins won more than 300 games at Elkhorn City and three region titles in a row in the 1950s.

The KABC also gave a lifetime media award to Mike Fields of the Lexington Herald-Leader, who has covered Kentucky high school hoops for more than three decades.

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