All about Derek Willis
Measurables (from Portsmouth Invitational): 6’8¾” with shoes; 211 pounds; 7’0½” wingspan; 8’10” standing reach; 26” no-step vertical
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Hometown: Mt. Washington, Ky. (Bullitt East)
UK statistics: Averaged 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game as a senior. Shot 47.8 percent from the field, 37.7 percent from three-point range and 68.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Honors and superlatives: Named to the SEC Community Service Team for his contributions in the community. … Averaged 7.3 rebounds, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a pre-draft camp. … Named MVP for the West Team at the Reese’s College All-Star Game after recording 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, a block and a steal in 21 minutes. … Made the SEC Academic Honor Roll for his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Before Kentucky: Born June 21, 1995, in Louisville. … Averaged 17.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a senior at Bullitt East. ... Averaged 18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds while leading his team to the Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena as a junior. ... Rivals ranked Willis as the No. 25 power forward in his class, while Scout ranked him at No. 27. ... Chose Kentucky over Indiana, Louisville and Purdue.
Willis on Twitter: @derek_willis33
Willis on playing for Kentucky
On being a Kentuckian playing for Kentucky: “It kind of ups the ante a little bit more. I feel there’s a lot more pride that comes with it.”
On UK career: “I had the wrong approach about it. (When practice ended), “I’d just pretty much leave the gym and go with friends and do whatever. I could have spent another hour and worked on really anything. … I had the wrong mental approach about it, and I think that’s what held me back. … I held myself back.”
On pre-draft preparations: “I’m just really trying to get in the best shape I can right now … It’s kind of my job right now. … I just want to get better and be the best player I can be. If I have to take a different avenue for the time being, then I’ll learn what I can and play catch-up. I feel I definitely need to work on my body, so I can guard, like, the bigger fours.”
Quotes about Willis
Troy Barr, who coached Willis at Bullitt East: “All the other schools (recruiting him) were telling him how much playing time he was going to get as a freshman and telling him when he’d probably start. Kentucky never told him that. They just told him they wanted him and he’d have to earn everything he got. For a kid to choose that over guaranteed playing time, I think shows the kind of character he has. He wanted to be challenged. I’m really proud of him.”
John Calipari on Willis saying Calipari helped him turn his life around: The whole staff – I don’t want to take more credit than I’m due, but I would say the bar is high here. There’s an expectation. We don’t throw kids under the bus. Kids do stupid things. My own children do stupid things and they’re not getting thrown under the bus. We don’t do it here. Try to get ’em to grow from every experience, and you look at these players, those three seniors, and they’ve all grown. There are times we believe in them, at some point in their careers, more than they believe in themselves, and we believe they can do more than they believe they can do, and when you get them to bounce through that they have that kind of response, that (Willis) had, which is, ‘I never thought I could do this and it changed me’ and all that, but it’s just holding the bar.”