UK Men's Basketball

Derek Willis’ transition game: From Jack Frost to Dragon Ball Z to bald is beautiful

Derek Willis explains his new look

After dyeing his hair gray last game, Kentucky forward cut his hair off for Saturday's game with Arizona State. He made three of four shots in the win over the Sun Devils.
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After dyeing his hair gray last game, Kentucky forward cut his hair off for Saturday's game with Arizona State. He made three of four shots in the win over the Sun Devils.

To use basketball parlance, Derek Willis’ shaved head suggested a straight-line drive. But the road to his buzz cut was more like a complicated play with multiple options requiring adaption to changing defenses.

Willis explained after Kentucky beat Arizona State on Saturday.

Of the ultimate decision to shave off his hair, Willis said, “I looked like Jack Frost, so I figured I’d cut it off.”

The road to shaving his head began earlier in the week with a decision to dye his natural black hair.

Multiple turnovers ensued.

“In certain lighting, it’s like blue and like orange and all that. It ain’t looking too good right now,” Willis said.

His girlfriend helped him dye his hair. “But it was my idea,’ Willis said. “Since my hair is, like, jet-dark black, I think what you have to do, you have to bleach it. So that ended up not working out. It was like an orange, yellow, funky thing. It looked like a Dragon Ball Z (a Japanese animation series) character.”

Then Willis and his girlfriend pivoted and switched to a gray dye. That was another turnover.

“My hair was supposed to be gray, but it ended up like blue-green,” he said. “It was all messed up.”

At that point, Willis went to the barber shop and asked for a cue ball cut.

“Now, they think I am the big dude from The Walking Dead, Shane,” Willis said of the reaction. “… I’ve tried to be a good sport about it.”

Murray sets record

Freshman Jamal Murray made two of six three-point shots. That meant he’d made at least one three in each of Kentucky’s first 10 games. No UK player had done that, UK announced.

The three-point shot began in the 1986-87 season.

“That’s my role,” Murray said of making threes. “… It’s an honor to be one of those guys. You know, it’s not going to stop.”

Don’t make him mad

Murray missed all six of his shots in the first half. Then he made four of seven.

Marcus Lee suggested what got Murray going.

“Jamal got in a Jamal mode,” he said. “He’ll either get hit or something, and he’ll get angry. He picks his tempo up by about a hundred.”

Silent Cal?

UK Coach John Calipari saluted the increased confidence of veterans like Alex Poythress and Lee.

“There’s nothing I say that rattles (Lee) or Alex,” Calipari said. “Like, I’m on those two as much as I’m on the other guys, but they look at me and they say, ‘I’ve got you.’ And it has no effect what I say. I try to tell these guys, being Italian, I’m loud and I’m demonstrative.”

Calipari jokingly said he could politely request rather than loudly demand.

“I have tried it, to be honest with you,” Calipari said. “And the guy says, (in a quiet, passive tone) ‘OK.’”

As the sporting cliché goes, Lee said he had to learn to listen to what Calipari says rather than the volume with which it is said.

“Cal just screams because he likes to scream,” he said.

Shooting advice

Tyler Ulis and Murray combined to make four of 13 three-point shots.

“I’m not worried about it,” Calipari said of the guards’ continuing inconsistency as shooters. “The only thing I’m telling these guys (is) I want Jamal and Tyler prepared to shoot a three every single time. And if they crowd you, then you’ve got to drive it. If they don’t crowd you, then you’re looking to shoot.”

Cal to Willis: Shoot!

Right before the under-eight timeout in the second half, Willis irked Calipari by passing the ball rather than shoot an open three-pointer.

“I absolutely did a back-flip on the sideline,” Calipari said. “You don’t have to make them, but you’ve got to shoot them.”

Willis explained.

“I was thinking too much,” he said. “When I play the game, I want everybody to touch the ball. It’s a team-based game.”

Willis passed to Isaiah Briscoe, who drove and was called for charging.

“He’s right,” Willis said of Calipari. “I should have taken the shot. . . . If I take that shot, Isaiah doesn’t get a charge.”


Fans booed the introduction of Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley. He probably was unfazed.

When asked Thursday about the reception he expected, Hurley said, “I’m going to have a lot more on my mind than that. I can tell you that. With all the anxiety and tension that’s associated with playing a team like Kentucky, really the last thing I’m going to be thinking about is what the fans are going to yell at me.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton