Ex-Cats

Derek Willis getting used to NBA life after fiancée answered the call

Former Kentucky players shoot with kids at basketball camp

Former Kentucky basketball players De’Aaron Fox, Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis talk about their involvement with helping kids during the 2017 John Calipari UK Pro Camp at the Joe Craft Center in Memorial Coliseum.
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Former Kentucky basketball players De’Aaron Fox, Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis talk about their involvement with helping kids during the 2017 John Calipari UK Pro Camp at the Joe Craft Center in Memorial Coliseum.

Every basketball player dreams of the day an NBA team calls to offer him a contract.

Derek Willis had that dream before he signed with the Detroit Pistons, but it did not play out as he thought it would.

“My fiancée actually got the call first before me,” the former University of Kentucky and Bullitt East High School standout said.

When Willis was filling out a form before he signed his contract, he couldn’t remember his agent’s contact information, so he wrote down his fiancée’s, Keely Potts, instead.

However, Willis put Potts’ information in the wrong spot, which is why the Pistons called her first when they were ready to offer Willis a contract.

“I guess they took it as like my agent, so they ended up calling her like, ‘hey, this is the news,’” Willis said.

However, that didn’t deter the Pistons from signing Willis to a one-year deal. Willis is now set to report to the Pistons’ training camp, which begins Sept. 26. Willis had previously said he plans on moving to Michigan in the middle of August.

Before Willis signed his contract, he said was unsure if he was cut out to play in the NBA. Willis did not really think about his basketball future until after his senior season ended.

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UK Basketball assistant coach John Robin introduces former UK Basketball players (left to right) Derek Willis, De'Aaron Fox and Dominique Hawkins as they take part in the 2017 John Calipari UK Pro Camps at the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. Michael Reaves Michael Reaves

Willis wasn’t selected in the NBA Draft, but it was the workouts beforehand that gave him the confidence that he would eventually find a spot on an NBA roster.

“When I got my first workout in Boston, that’s when it kind of became real for me, when I was getting really good positive feedback from them,” Willis said. “Then I started getting other workouts coming along, and starting hearing good things, that’s when it kind of became real for me.”

Now, Willis is on an NBA roster, even though he might have taken the longer, tougher road. Willis is excited to play the sport he loves professionally, but now he is getting introduced to a part of basketball that he has not yet experienced, the business.

The NBA can be a cut-throat league with all the trades and surprising cuts that take place. Willis said he gets advice from former UK players who are now in the league on how to handle that aspect of being a professional.

“You just got to be prepared for it, stay level headed,” Willis said. “Thankfully we have trustworthy coaches here we can depend on and people that were in contact with to help us through those things.”

Willis said he’s working hard to prove to the Pistons he is worthy of his contract and a spot on the opening-day roster.

“Obviously, be a bit more consistent shooter, do the things you’re good at and improve on that,” he said. “That’s kind of how the game is now, be good at your role and you’ll have a good career up in the NBA.”

Chris Leach: 859-231-1326, @chrisleach250

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