Former Kentucky forward Derek Willis is headed to Italy.
This week, the 6-foot-9 forward out of Mount Washington, KY signed a deal with Happy Casa Brindisi of Lega Basket Serie A, an Italian basketball league based in Brindisi, Apulia.
Emiliano Charchia of Sportando was the first to break the news on Thursday, followed by the team announcing the signing earlier today.
DONE DEAL: Happy Casa Brindisi agreed to terms with Derek Willis, a source told @Sportando.
Willis chose Brindisi’s proposal over Manresa.
The forward comes from Ulm.
— Emiliano Carchia (@Carchia) July 16, 2020
“Happy Casa Brindisi [is pleased to announce] that it has reached an agreement for the next season with Derek Willis,” the release said. “[Willis] began his career at Bullitt East High School and chose the prestigious University of Kentucky where he [played four years]. For the Wildcats, coached by the Hall of Fame legend John Calipari, he averaged 22 minutes [per game] and shot 40% from long distance.
“The University of Kentucky also proved to be a hotbed of NBA talent and rising stars in those years. In fact, Willis played alongside players such as Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Devin Booker (Suns), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), De’Aaron Fox (Kings), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder), Bam Adebayo ( Heat) and several other major players in the most important league in the world.
“After finishing his studies [at Kentucky], he remained in the States participating in the G-League with the franchise affiliated to the Detroit Pistons, the Grand Rapids Drive. [Willis managed] eight doubles doubles, averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 43 games.
“[After the G League, Willis played in] Germany. In his first year with BG Gottingen, he averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds per game, shooting with 42% from three.
“[Those] significant figures earned him the call from Rathioparm Ulm, a German team participating in the Eurocup. In nine games in the European event, he averaged 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists, shooting 50% from 2, 57% from 3 and 91% on free throws.
“We are very happy to add a player like Derek to our roster who has already shown his qualities in previous experiences in Germany,” Sports Director Simone Giofrè said in the release. “We are confident that it will be a very valuable element of our new team.”
Following the announcement, Willis’ wife, Keely, took to Facebook to express their excitement in the new move.
“Happy to be on this crazy adventure with you,” Willis said, tagging the former Wildcat in the post. “WHAT A WEEKS IT’S BEEN! From one phone conversation to the next, 4 huge teams, lots of tough decisions, and 7 sleepless nights, it’s officially, OFFICIAL. We’re moving to southern Italy y’all.
“Still a little stressed from all the craziness, and sad to be moving away from a country we’ve called home for the past two years. It’s a very bitter sweet feeling, but I’m also very excited for this next step and so beyond proud of my husband!
“Bring on all the pasta, pizza, gelato and lemon cellos. Oh and basketball of course.”
Best of luck to Derek and Keely in their move to Italy!