Calipari says “team believes” in Derek Willis

By LARRY VAUGHT

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

For the last few weeks, Kentucky’s most dependable rebounder has become junior Derek Willis. He’s also become a consistent third scorer behind Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray

“I’m really proud of him. He’s rebounding the ball. He’s getting better defensively. Still not there. But this team believes in him and he believes in himself more,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after Tuesday’s win over Georgia.

Kentucky likely will need the best Willis has Saturday when it plays at South Carolina. A win could move UK to the top of the SEC.

“You know, everybody, because of what’s happened here, I keep saying this, ‘He’s like on a normal path,'” Calipari said about Willis’ recent surge. “His path is like the normal path. And everybody is like, ‘wow, he’s still here?’ What? You know, and I’m just happy for him, and you know, if Dom [Hawkins] hadn’t been hurt, you’d probably have two of those guys.”

Willis has learned not to get complacent despite his numbers.

“I wouldn’t say settled in, but I’m just trying to do the things to stay there, honestly,” Willis said.

Calipari has even used him as a third guard at times to rest other starters.

“It’s not been bad. I wouldn’t say I’m not used to it, but I have to learn more plays and try to get more options with the offense, and like I said, just the defensive aspects, definitely,” Willis said.

 

3 comments

  1. Willis showed a glimpse of his ability to contribute last year during the Bahamas trip, but with the great wealth of talent on that team, Willis had an uphill fight just to get on the floor. This year, he has been one of the most efficient players all season, and I am happy for Willis that his contributions are now being rewarded by the Coach with significant playing time.

    I also feel bad for Hawkins due to his injury situation this year, but he also has a senior year ahead and his experience, his maturity, and his skills can be helpful next year, if not down over the final 7 games of this season, and this post season.

  2. I said last year that both Willis and Hawkins could start for most any Division 1 team in the country. They are both outstanding basketball players. Glad to see Willis coming into his own. If he keeps it up he will be a starter next year no matter how many McDonalds All-Americans Cal brings in.

  3. Can’t wait to see Bam and his boys next year….the windmill looked great. I can see him posterizing Skal a lot next year if he stays.

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