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H.S. coach discusses Derek Willis’s future at UK


After appearing in just 14 games as a freshman this season, the rumor mill slowly started to spin regarding Derek Willis‘s future at Kentucky.

One-eighth of the Wildcats’ heralded 2013 recruiting class, Willis averaged just 1.1 points per game this season, and with another bumper recruiting crop coming in, that lead some to wonder aloud about Willis’s role with the team going forward and whether he would seek a transfer.

Willis’s high school coach, Troy Barr, spoke with late Monday night regarding the transfer rumors, frustration over playing time and Willis’s future at Kentucky.

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Article written by Chris Fisher

45 Comments for H.S. coach discusses Derek Willis’s future at UK

  1. HackRichards
    10:22 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Is he good enough? Good enough to play NBA ball? Overseas? yes he is, just not good enough to play at UK. Would not matter which school he attends, his outcome would be just as good at UK as any where else. Look how much fun and pride he could have in the next 3 years. Jorts proved you only need 1 good year at UK to play with the big boys.

    • 94Feet
      7:25 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

      The answer is…… He should Redshirt. Both Willis and Hawkins.
      Why? They are both gonna be 11th and 12th men in the rotation.

      1) Andrew 1a) Ullis
      2) Aaron 2a) Booker
      3) Poythress 3a) Lyles
      4) Towns 4a) Lee
      5) Willie 5a) Dakari

      If you look at the top five……9 are McDonalds AA. There is potential for
      8 of the 10 to go Pro. Redshirting in this situation GREATLY benefits Willis and Hawkins.

    • Dee W.
      9:44 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

      Note that the content of the article does not match the headline. This post itself is designed to spread rumors.

      Very insulting to the BBN and to its players. You don’t do this to the kids.

  2. Poppschmidty
    10:23 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    I hope Derek gets on the court more next season, the boy can flat out shoot.

    • lonnieb
      10:54 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      While I agree….he missed every time he shot last year in regular season. He did look good in scrimages

    • Dee W.
      12:56 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

      lonnieb, he did not miss “every time he shot” in the regular season. What is the point in making that kind of comment?
      Moreover, he made many other positive contributions – he really gave the team a lift in the Vandy game (given we got an 8 seed to get into the tournament, that is no small thing…we needed no further bad losses on our resume) – and there were many articles about how instrumental he was in helping the team prepare for Wisconsin.

      The “rumors” flying are being made up by nasty so-called “fans” – same ones attacking the Harrison’s personal integrity, calling on Cal to resign or be fired, etc. Their conduct is and was outrageous, and they can end up making those kinds of things a reality as far as effect if they are not shouted down and countered as people will get tired of putting up with the nonsense. They are an extraordinarly small percentage of the fan base, but they make a great deal more noise than their numbers.

  3. TD
    10:25 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    It would be a shame for him to leave UK, it would also be a shame for him to waste his talent and be a benchwarmer for his collegiate career. He has a lot of talent and plenty to offer so it would not be surprising to see him get more quality time next season.

    • whodat
      11:04 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      ^ this is all that really needs to be said on the matter though I would extend the horizon for reasonable playing time to his junior year before the “waste” begins to take affect.

  4. Wildcat4Life
    10:25 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    The only thing that seems to be holding him back from gaining more playing time this season is working out with the weights. Instead of messing around during the summer break, he needs to really think about hitting the weights. It’s up to him. If he fails, it’s his fault. Self-motivation and hard work!

    • Coach Raymer
      10:46 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      He should take a look at WKU in Bowling Green. He could play, every game, tough competition and would still have quite a following and support since Hardin Country is an hours drive.

  5. Chris Fisher
    10:27 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Did y’all like my article that made it seem like terrible news but actually is what we all expected and is great news?

    10:36 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Derek CAN be a serious contributer this season. Although his personality tends towards the stoic, I loved watching him cheer the team during the tournament. His reaction to Aaron’s game-winner against Wisconsin is epic.

    20 pounds would really help him in the paint but 35lbs would be optimal.

    240 lb Willis =Beast.

  7. Will Richie Play Tonight?
    10:38 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Not to sound like a KY homer….and it’s all water under the bridge….

    But I’m not buying Calapari’s comments about Marcus Lee “not playing because he’s behind two really good players.” I think Calipari simply forgot to play his talent, forgot about how deep his bench was, etc. How many times this season (I KNOW two…Arkansas and uconn) where the opposing players mentioned how gassed our players were. Looking at the Arkansas boxscore, we had three players (Randle, Harrisons) who played 40, 39, and 38 minutes (if I recall). And we only went 6-7 deep (again, If I remember correctly. I think AR showed evenly distributed minutes at 18 minutes (or something like that) for their top 6-7 players, with other pitching in.

    So back to Lee, Willis, etc. It’s a long season. Seems like if Calipari would have given some of those kids game experience throughout the season, we may not be having this discussion. Willis would be happy. Lee could have been doing that all year. And Willis, in his mop-up minutes this year…I still remembering thinking “that kid is so natural with the ball…let him play.”

    True, I don’t see them in practice every day. But I’m not sure our box score minutes reflect how truly deep we were this year. And I DO hope Willis stays AND I hope the coaching staff gives him an opportunity to play more than 1.1 minutes per game.

    • asdf
      10:43 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      Cal is always going to shorten his bench in the spring semester, especially in Feb getting ready for the tourney, but yes, he did seem to forget about Lee and perhaps even Willis this year. Cal was so preoccupied trying to figure out this team that it was probably understandable, I guess…

    • Steve
      10:49 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      When there is always so much youth, the starters need to play as many minutes together as they possibly can. Which means a limited rotation. His and Lee’s time will come, and probably soon.

    • L1C6
      11:43 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      I disagree that “Lee could’ve been doing that all year.” Every time Lee came into a game, with the exception of the Michigan game, all he did was come in and hack people. He wasn’t blocking shots, he was slapping arms. He’d get called for quick fouls then have to take a seat. He had a great game against MI but let’s not assume he would’ve had a great season had he had more playing time. I think the Michigan game was special for many reasons, but mainly bc he was the surprise factor and stepped up for Willie. Lee is good, but has a lot of work to do to improve his game if he wants more minutes. I trust Cal, despite ppl claiming he can’t coach I think the evidence points to that being incorrect.

  8. Coach Kiz-Al
    10:39 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    He will get time at small forward this year…

  9. Coach
    10:40 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    It’d serve Willis to stay and RS.

  10. asdf
    10:40 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Willis and Hawkins can be out stabilizing forces for the next three years regardless of how the one-and-dones play out. They can be the new Darius Millers of UK.

    • UKBlue1!
      10:52 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      Darius Miller meet Alex Poythress

  11. Steve
    10:44 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    When will our fans realize that UK is not the place where every deserving player is going to get the chance to play all of the minutes they could get at a mid-major school? There is no shame in being a bench player for a few years under Cal. It’s really no different than when Alabama has 3* or better football talent sitting the bench when they could be starting for UK.

  12. Coach Petrino
    10:46 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    He wasn’t prepared enough for D1 ball especially at a school like UK. If he puts in the work and gets stronger, faster, etc…he will be ready to contribute in a couple years. Next year take a redshirt and then he has 3 solid years that he will have a chance to play.

    • asdf
      10:49 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      A redshirt year would greatly benefit him, especially if he reworks his body. Willis plays a lot like a slightly smaller Scott Padgett, and remember what a change there was in his game when he got in shape?

    • Steve
      10:52 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      I doubt we will see many redshirts except in the case of injury. Cal just doesn’t seem to like to tie up a scholarship for more than 4 years unless he has to. The way he recruits, that is totally understandable.

  13. Entitled
    10:49 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Just because you play for Kentucky doesn’t mean you automatically have the right to play your freshman season. There are four years for these kids to earn playing time. Not playing serious minutes their first or second year shouldn’t matter.

  14. TD
    10:57 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Cal plays his favorite, or his best 7/8 players. He rarely goes deeper into the bench. I think playing Marcus Lee and Willis would have been a good thing this past season…but that said, if I was coaching they would not have made that amazing & awesome tournament run.

  15. UKGrad83
    10:58 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Eerily reminiscent of Scott Padgett. In-state player, 6-9, played in 14 games as a freshman, averaged 2.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. Was on a team loaded with NBA talent.

    He took a few lumps early but turned things around, stayed 4 years and played in two national championship games, bringing it home in 98. Hope Derek sticks around – he can definitely contribute.

  16. J.A.
    11:05 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    if alex and dakari come back he is the 9th or 10th man, would be idiotic not to RS him this year because there will be a year/years where we need him.

  17. Jughead
    11:26 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    If he ultimately wants to eat with the big dogs, he cannot pee with the pups.

  18. Ryan
    11:34 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    I played with Derek in high school he should have signed with Purdue or Louisville. He will never get minutes over 5 stars who are promised minutes.

    • L1C6
      11:46 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      So you think guys are just getting minutes bc they were promised to him? Ridiculous.

    • Liar Liar
      11:46 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

      Ignoring the obvious wrongs in you’re comment, he wouldn’t get any time at UofL either. He doesn’t fit into Pitino’s system at all. He’d sit on the bench there just like he has been here, the only difference is he’d be going against Wayne Blackshear in practice at UofL instead of future lotto pick James Young at UK.

    • Dee W.
      1:03 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

      You aren’t Ryan. Disappear little troll.

  19. Blue Jesus
    11:52 am April 22, 2014 Permalink

    If the Harrison Twins come back, wouldn’t it make sense to redshirt Willis?

  20. jch67
    12:06 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Sounds like a great Redshirt prospect. Let the coaches give him some strength and conditioning goals to come into fall with next year. If he hits them, then he gets a shot at cracking the rotation. If he doesn’t, he gets a Redshirt season to mature physically all the while practicing with and against the best of the best.

    Cal could sure use a redshirt coming back in 2016 with a Nat’l Champ. Game run experience, 2 years in Cal’s system and a R/S to build his body.

  21. Charger proud
    12:14 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Willis will get minutes at the 3 this year, and have a great future at UK! We’ll need his shooting and defense. Coach Barr won’t interfere and Derek is headstrong. It took me a couple years out of Bullitt East to add weight too. Protein! Go chargers! Go cats!

  22. That article reminds me of when real Gimel was swilling protein drinks trying to put weight on.

  23. MustangCat
    12:29 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Willis should be a factor next year. No one can be a factor playing less then 2 minutes a game. The kid is a great outside shooter. Better then Kyle Wiltjer, and much more of an all-around player too. He needs to focus in during this offseason. The twins decision should have no impact on what he does?! I’d say the biggest thing he needs is confidence. When he learns the nuances of the college game, he will be a key player for the next three years. Love his potential. If he can shoot the 3 consistently, he’ll see enough PT. Stop talking about his potential transfer!!! We don’t need to let this kid slip away.

  24. sckysportsink
    1:18 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Add 30 lbs. of muscle and some more work on his jump shot from outside and I could see him being a Scott Padgett type of a player. He has a lot of skills but a young/undeveloped 6’9″ frame. Give him 2 years of hard work, and WATCH OUT!

  25. Platinum Unis
    1:21 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    To all those calling for a redshirt season for Willis, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the last UK player to redshirt NOT due to injury Jeff Sheppard some 18 years ago? It’s a cute idea, but it just doesn’t happen anymore. Plus, the 2015 class has the potential to be as loaded as the 2013 class, so a redshirt season won’t change much in the long run. We all want Cal to maintain a deep bench but we scoff at the notion of a guy of Willis’ caliber being the 10th or 11th man. Fact is, he’s probably the 10th or 11th best overall player on the team.

    Hopefully, as it seems, the minutes will be there at the 3 spot for Willis’ taking. But I don’t see him, or anybody else, employing the redshirt.

  26. JaredCarterIsMyHomeboy
    1:25 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Maybe the new food rules will help.

  27. CatSinceBirth
    1:31 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Hope he works hard this summer, but at semester break next season, and he’s averaging 1-2 minutes per game, I’d say get out of Dodge. No need seeing him not be able to improve enough (by playing) to at least play overseas. He will never get better if he doesn’t play. The Cats play teams that Willis would average 20 minutes a game with right now. I hope Cal doesn’t bring in players again just because they’re Kentucky boys. It’s simply not fair to them. Don’t forget, “It’s all about the players”.

  28. Ceeph
    1:51 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    Cal runs his teams a lot like the NBA drafts. Based
    On potential. There is know way that James young
    And Aaron harrison knew the system better or could
    Defend and execute better than Hood, Polson. And Poytress
    At the beginning of the season. Yet who got to play? As an upper class man
    Under Cal to get playing time you not only have to be
    Better than the freshman but you have to be better than
    Cal thinks they can be if he gives them all the court time. So if you
    Are not good enough potentially to see the court as a freshman you are
    Almost guaranteed mop up minutes the rest of your career.

  29. CopenhagenCat
    3:24 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    I hope he stays. I’m sure Cal well get him in more this year. We know he can shoot. But how is his defense? I think he will help UK a lot if Cal gets him off the bench and gives him more chances.

  30. UK_Tom
    9:01 pm April 22, 2014 Permalink

    the kid can shoot, but the coach can’t hide him out on the floor..He is not picking up on the D very fast, and that alone is keeping him out of games.( ie John Hooda 4 year player) ..What good does it do, when have a kid that score, but he can’t stop the other guy…Kyle W was the same way, he could shoot lights out, even get a rebound once in a while, but he was slow on his feet and could not guard…It might be best if D Willis leaves…He could start and many programs, if he steps down to Div 2, he can play right away…or he sit out a year….OR he can red shirt and get his ass in the gym and work on his game by adding some D to his resume. that’s just my 2 cents worth…