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2013 commit Willis says Kentucky was “just the best fit for me”


It wasn’t all that hard for Derek Willis to explain why he made his verbal commitment to play basketball for coach John Calipari at Kentucky.

“Kentucky was just the best fit for me,” said the 6-9 Bullitt East junior Friday his announcement touched off a huge roar of approval from teammates, family, students and friends gathered to see whether he would pick UK, Louisville, Indiana or Purdue.

Willis said he actually told UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua almost two weeks ago that he was coming to Kentucky and he only decided to make it public to not only take pressure off himself, but also to let him and his teammates concentrate on getting back to the state tournament. A few minutes after his announcement, he was already trending on Twitter.

Willis said he had a “really good relationship” with all the coaches recruiting him, but that he had a “great relationship” with Calipari.

“He feels I can play mulitple positions,” Willis said. “I just felt I needed to come out with this decision now to be fair to everyone.”

What stood out about Kentucky?

“The best players in the nation play there and I wanted to join them,” Willis said.

His parents are both Louisville fans, but Willis said no one tried to influence him and it wasn’t hard to pick Kentucky.

“Kentucky is just the best fit for me and that’s why I chose them,” Willis, who is UK’s first verbal commit in the 2013 recruiting class, said.

He says his family helped him establish “pros and cons” of each school recruiting him and was available for input when he needed it.

He had verbally committted to Purdue before backing off that commitment. Willis, a top 30 national recruit, said he “rushed” into that decision and there will not be a repeat with his decision about Kentucky.

“I am set for Kentucky. That’s it. I felt like I rushed into that Purude commitment. I got excited,” he said. “I waited, thought it over and decided Kentucky was the best place for me.”

He said he normally was asked all day every day about his potential college choice and was also tiring of all the recruiting calls.

“You like to be a kid. Recruiters calling all the time gets kind of annoying, but you get used to it,” Willis said.

He says his decision adds no pressure to his high school career.

“I think it is a little bit more motivating if anything,” he said. “I want to come out and play hard. It just motivates me more knowing I am going to Kentucky.”

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    That old southern saying, “that dog won’t hunt” doesn’t apply to this Kentucky kid–he will hunt big time. Really thrilled to get him. Believe me, he won’t sit on the bench either…he has unique skills and is a tremendous pickup. Thanks for picking the Big Blue Derek!

  2. coldspringmike

    And the beat goes on, hot damn, did not think we had a chance for this player when he dropped Purdue, but here we are today with out first 2013 commitment, a home grown Kentucky boy. Could not be better day in the Commonwealth. I hope everyone realizes how much coach Orlando means to this program.

  3. john l

    Cal talks about the pressure kids have playing for Kentucky,this kid is going to gace tremendous pressure this season and next.Glad to see he’s up to the challenge,and really happy he will be playing at UK.Welcome to BBN Derek and best wishes for a happy successful career.

  4. Don V

    Smart move by Derek. The bus will fill early for 2013 with so many top players listing UK. Welcome aboard Mr. Willis.

  5. LindaS

    So happy we have a local boy going to the Wildcats. I heard some ‘other’ coach was walking up and down Frankfort Ave. in Lexington West and looking in all the restaurant windows crying and hoping he would get lucky.

    Refresh my memory, plz, who do we have coming in for 2012?

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