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Derek Willis on Hawkins, Randle, Wiggins, weight and expectations


Derek Willis thought he would be at Rupp Arena playing in the state tournament last week. Instead, he had on his Kentucky blue jacket when he accepted his award as the Sixth Region Player of the Year because his Bullitt East team lost to Pleasure Ridge Park in the regional.

““I am very proud of this award. I am just glad I got it,” said Willis, a 6-9 forward who signed with Kentucky in November. “It is disappointing to not have made state. Throughout the season, that was my goal over any goal to get back here to Rupp and hopefully have a chance to win it again, but we fell in regionals. It was just unfortunate for us. I’m just looking forward to Kentucky right now and getting my body in shape and just all that.”

Willis offered his thoughts on a variety of other subjects during the state tourney interview.

Question: Do you think Madison Central guard Dominique Hawkins is a good enough player to play at Kentucky?
Willis: “Oh yeah, he’s a Kentucky kid. He’s tough, real tough, real athletic, strong. If we added him to the recruiting class, it would be a good pickup.”

Question: Do you plan to wear the Kentucky jacket here today?
Willis: “Oh, yeah, I had to come out in it. It was just good to talk to the fans, talk to the little kids and all that. It has been good today for the brief amount hours I’ve been here.”

Question: What lies ahead in the next few months for you?
Willis: “Just working out. I picked up a little job to try and get as much money as I can to save up for college. That is really about it. Just go to the gym every day.”

Question: Where are you working?
Willis: “My girlfriend hooked me up with a job at McAllister’s on Bardstown Road 9 (in Fern Creek). So I’ll be serving sandwiches to people. Be sure to check them out.”

Question: Will you be playing for your coach, Troy Barr, in the Derby Classic in Louisville next month?
Willis: “I will be at the Derby Festival at Freedom Hall. I will be playing in the Kentucky-Indiana all-stars, of course, and Kentucky-Ohio all-star game. I am looking forward to those.”

Question: What do you think watching Kentucky finish the season?
Willis: “I didn’t know how their season would be. I knew this would be a down year for college basketball. It was just up to them. I don’t really want to cover them. They could still click the next day. It could be anything. I hope they finish the season strong.”

Question: Did you talk to UK coach John Calipari or assistant Orlando Antigua at the state tourney?
Willis: “I said hi to him and gave him a handshake. That was about it really. Him and Coach O.”

Question: Have you been in contact with the other signees, the other commitments?
Willis: “Marcus Lee I to talk to via Twitter. I got to talk to Dakari (Johnson) during College GameDay during the Missouri game. I don’t really keep in contact with the (Harrison) twins or James Young. That is the only two I talk to right now.”

Question: What do you think about Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle’s decisions?
Willis: “When I put my predictions out there for people coming, they generally do happen. As far as Wiggins goes, I’ve tried to figure him out. I’ve read everything about him and looked him up. I don’t know. I know UK is one of his top two choices, I would say. As far as Julius Randle goes, in my opinion and this is all based on what I’ve found, what I’ve read, I think he will come. As far as Aaron Gordon goes, he’s on the West Coast. I don’t think he’ll come, too far away. That’s just my insight.”

Question: How much do you read recruiting stuff?
Willis: “I don’t read it a lot anymore. I used to read it a lot during the season because people would say, ‘Who’s this?’ and I’d look them up. But as far as recruiting goes, I’ll just leave it to the fans and stuff. I just try to deal with myself. But I think Randle is probably a lock. That’s my opinion. He could do whatever, but I think he’ll come. Wiggins is a toss-up for me. I can’t figure it out.”

Question: Why do you think Randle is a lock?
Willis: “I think he’s a lock, but I wouldn’t write that down. Anything could happen, but I think he’s a lock.”

Question: Are you ready for the huge expectations of next season?
Willis: “Yeah, I’m trying ot get ready for it right now. My body is not in the best shape. I’m trying to get stronger and put some weight on. I’m just looking forward to it. More excitement than anything.”

Question: What’s your weight now?
Willis: “About 200 or 195. I’d like to be at 220. I think would be good. If more, great, but 220 is what I’m shooting for right now.”

Question: Does it motivate you that when people talk about the recruiting class and name names, they kind of just mention your name at the end?
Willis: “I know during the summer I fell off obviously, but then again, we go to Missouri (for a holiday tournament) and we play top 10 player (five-star Arkansas signee) Bobby Portis, and I have a good game and I have a good tournament. Everybody had a good tournament for my team, not just me. And you look at my stat line against a top-10 player. He is a good player; I’m not knocking him. They are all good players out there. I just fell off, and they got more hype than me. … I’m more worried about pleasing coach Cal and the staff and the fans more than anything. I am just worried about that right now.”

Question: Is it nice to come in under the radar without huge expectations weighing you down?
Willis: “That’s how I wanted it to be. When I first got on the recruiting scene, I was like, ‘I don’t want to be a top-30 player.’ I was grateful to be up there and be thought highly of, but when I fell off, I still had to keep working hard and do the things that top players do.”

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/derek-willis-on-hawkins-randle-wiggins-weight-and-expectations/


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  1. eddie

    Dominique Hawkins is too good of a player to be just left on the bench if cal wants wants him just to play clean up if the team is blowing someone out. if i was him and knew that was the case i’d just go to south carolina and play but some some people have said well if that happens he’d be another devon downy and beat us up everytime we’d play him but i do think he wants to come but cal needs to get him now before the unthinkable happens and cal regrets it he is just that good.

  2. OldFan

    Hawkins needs to go to Butler where he can get playing time and really improve as a player. If he comes to UK, he will sit on the bench while Cal forgets he has him and forgets he is a capable player. Cal only coaches up those he considers to be “great” NBA prospects. He made that statement about Josh Harrellson after he learned Kanter would not be playing. Cal stated they had never worked one-on-one with Josh and had no idea he could be such a good player. No kid needs that kind of treatment and that is probably what has happened with Hood. I bet Cal’s staff has never worked one-on-one with Hood like they did with Harrow, Goodwin, and the others earlier this year.
    Hawkins needs to go where he is needed and truly wanted for what he has to offer, not just to fill a seat.

    1. Larry Pup

      If Cal was not interested in Hawkins then why would he waste his time watching him play? I don’t see it the way you do OldFan. It is my understanding they have worked with Hood one on one. Hood was ill for a long time too earlier in the season. If you were coaching this team would you play Hood or Goodwin as a starter right now? This team has struggled so much this year it has been hard to play subs like Hood. I still say Hawkins will be a “wildcat” and he will see playing time.

    2. Brad

      I think that Cal definitely tries to recruit the “great” NBA prospects without a doubt, but I don’t think that it’s fair to say that he doesn’t give everybody a chance. He just plays his best players. It’s ultimately up to the players on how they perform. Look at J.Polson, he’s definitely far from being a “great” NBA prospect & he get’s plenty of playing time.

  3. Anonymous

    I believe in Derek and if he can get to 220lbs. then we will have a player coming off the bench better than anyone doing it this year. He has a nice handle, jump shot, very nice leaping ability, and runs the floor well. As respects, Hawkins, like his strength, but mostly his killer instinct…would be real nice to find a place for him.

  4. anthony

    all you people need to shut up! Hawkins would be a great addition to UK.He is the kind of in state kid Calipari needs to add to the roster,one that can play!Hawkins will get solid playing time during his four years at UK! some fans just never see the big picture and are quick to give stupid opionions on situations they have no clue about!

  5. kybasser

    I’m hoping that Hawkins is at UK next year as well. As for “OldFan”, his posts are very redundant, basically saying the same thing every time he posts. It reminds me of a guy that used to pretend to be a UK fan on the LHL fan forum. On that site, he basically did the same thing he does here, and that is try to wrap insults to the coach or team in compliments, though very thinly veiled. Generally on the other site he also tended to always find ways to compliment another coach in state and insinuate he was a better coach than anything UK had.

    I don’t know they are the same person, but if not, it certainly appears he took posting lessons from the other guy.

    Coach Cal has proven he will coach a player just as much as the player is willing to give. When Josh began giving more with his voluntary extra workouts, that’s when Coach Cal began his work with Josh. What that means is that Coach Cal doesn’t let the players be victims. If they choose to work hard, then he gives them all the help they need, and if they don’t then it is their choice.

    I don’t attend practices. I base the above observation on two things, the stuff Coach Cal has said, and the fact that Coach Cal has proven he is a Servant Leader. Having been through Servant Leadership training, I recognize fully what the coach is doing, and why.

    It really doesn’t matter what any of us think though, the coach is the coach, he is paid to produce, and I’d say he has produced more than anyone expected given the results of his first three years.

    OldFan is kind of getting just what he gives and contributes here, based upon the responses I’ve seen to him.

    Go CATS!!!!

  6. Dee W.

    “That is probably what has happened with Hood. I bet Cal’s staff has never worked one-on-one with Hood like they did with Harrow, Goodwin, and the others earlier this year.”

    No, what happened with Hood is that he had been injured, and this last time around was sick with mono for much of the year. Cal cannot be blamed for that. Hood was a fighter during that Robert Morris game – he and Polson. They were the leaders for the team – not roles they should have been forced into – and then they had no support. The rest played like they were scared.

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