There's something special about a player who represents our state in the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star basketball games and goes on to play for the University of Kentucky.
But when two players do that? That's a testament to the state's long-standing basketball culture.
This year, UK Coach John Calipari's two in-state recruits, Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, will represent Kentucky high school basketball in the annual Kentucky-Indiana series.
Hawkins, an athletic, gritty guard, led Madison Central High School to its first Sweet Sixteen title and will be the 17th Kentucky Mr. Basketball to play at UK.
He said he wants to learn how to be a better leader this summer and that his experience with the Kentucky All-Stars will help him do that.
"I'm looking to improve everything," Hawkins said.
"I know I've got to do everything a little bit better than I did in high school."
Allen Feldhaus Jr., who coached Hawkins at Madison Central, is coaching Kentucky's team in the All-Star series.
He knows exactly what he's getting from Hawkins.
"He's going to do whatever you ask him to do," Feldhaus said. "And I think that Derek's the same way."
Willis, who had offers from Indiana, Louisville and Purdue, chose Kentucky in January 2012.
He's a long, skilled forward with good range on his jump shot.
Preparing his body for basketball at the collegiate level is his No. 1 priority for the summer.
"I get in the gym whenever I can," Willis said. "Try to eat a little bit more whenever I go to meals."
Adding weight and strength would go a long way in preparing the 6-foot-9 forward for basketball at Kentucky.
Both Willis and Hawkins are going through conditioning with UK and taking a class on campus while practicing for the Kentucky All-Stars.
Feldhaus said he feels bad for what the two future Cats are going through but that they'll benefit from all of the practice in the long run.
"They're going to get used to hard work (at UK)," Feldhaus said. "I'll promise you that."
For both Willis and Hawkins, representing the state of Kentucky against Indiana is even more special because they'll continue the rivalry when they play at UK.
"It's always good to try and beat Indiana," Willis said. "I feel like this year we're going to beat them. So it's going to be good to bring the award back to the state of Kentucky."
What: Kentucky-Indiana All-Star Games
Friday: Girls' game at 5:30 p.m., with boys to follow at Freedom Hall in Louisville
Saturday: Girls' game at 5 p.m., with boys to follow at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
Tyler Lashbrook: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @lashy.