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By LARRY VAUGHT

Derek Willis went from a 6-9 rising star with outside shooting ability and ballhandling skills to a player some now consider a “throw-in” for UK’s recruiting class because his summer play before his senior season was not as good as some recruiting analysts expected.

“I played with a different summer team and for four weeks it was non-stop basketball. It wore me down. I don’t meant to make excuses, but I just never felt right,” Willis said.

Still, he estimates he’s asked “five or six times per day” about winning a national title at UK next year.

“Everybody talks about the recruiting class and winning No. 9 (national championship). I get a lot of stuff from Louisville fans wishing I had gone there. I am happy for them, but I am happy where I am,” Willis said.

He knows his future teammates will be, too, even though he thinks the six McDonald’s All-Americans really have no idea just how big Kentucky basketball is.

“I don’t think they really have a clue about what Kentucky basketball is all about,” Willis said. “They have visited here, but Dominique and I have grown up around it. You have to live here to know how the fans are for both teams (UK and Louisville) and how basketball is so big that you are treated like gods and expected to play that way.”

6 Responses to Willis not sure future teammates “have a clue about what Kentucky basketball is all about” yet

  • Jim Boyers says:

    Let’s hope they “get it” quickly. That was probably the biggest problem with this past season. That group never seemed to understand the intensity and dedication it took to win at this level. Nor did they ever seem to be comfortable with the expectations of the fanbase.

    This is the most unique situation in all of sports and, like Cal says, it isn’t for everyone. These incoming kids appear to be squared away and very motivated to do what is neccessary. Let’s hope it works out, because, if their performance matches their perceived talent, we are in for something really special.

  • TrueBlueJohn says:

    Jim, I totally agree with you. There is nothing more unique than UK basketball, and if the kids don’t understand that fact, then the team suffers. That is what happened to some extent this season. The 2012 team got it pretty quickly, and the result was banner # 8. Here’s hoping the new group realizes it quickly.

  • LindaS says:

    I’m still volunteer to volunteer to teach UK Basketball History and Tradition 101 and 201!

  • Lee Lawrence says:

    I think the new youngsters will “get it”. This is quite a mix. Potentially better than the 2012 Championship squad.

  • King Ghidora says:

    I guess I understand a player trying to be apolitical by mentioning the “other” Kentucky team given they had a good year but deep down he has to know there is a difference. UL doesn’t bring in the fans like UK does even if they do bring in more money (that’s a thing with being connected to the Big East IMO). UK has won 3 titles between the last 2 UL championships and the Cats won 5 before UL won their first. Cardinal basketball is just not on the same level IMO.

    I’m really glad to have Willis and Hawkins on the team though. I think both will make contributions. They may not be all Americans but every team needs a good bench. If we learned anything this year that’s it. Well we knew that already but now it’s even more clear to our current coach. Cal is a great coach but he’s not a perfect coach. I think he could have filled out the bench more this year somehow if he had to use football players. It might have made a difference when teams started pushing the Cats around.

  • I truly believe that Coach Woods will have no problem with This Years Squad…I also feel this New Group of Young Men, with Our Current Team could possibly Elevate, ” The Kentucky Basketball Lore.” BBN Feel Very Honored, and Towns looked Real Good, Too !

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