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By Nick Jones
When talking about UK’s 2013 recruiting class, many stars come to mind. However, only one is committed to the Cats. Derek Willis, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward from Mt. Washington, Ky., is a name that Cats fans should become familiar with.
Willis pledged to play for UK head coach John Calipari on Jan. 20 after de-committing from Purdue University.
“I just wanted to kind of compare something else to Purdue and see what else was out there, and I really liked Kentucky,” he said.
It was Calipari’s track record of putting players in the NBA that led him to UK.
“You just look at what he’s done and he has put all these kids in the NBA,” Willis said. “Hopefully, I doubt I’ll be a one-and-done, but hopefully I can eventually play in the NBA someday, and that’s my goal.”
Before going to the league, there are a few things the UK product would like to accomplish during his freshman season in Lexington.
“Hopefully start, and hopefully be good with the guys and be friends with everybody and just do good in school and see where it goes from there,” he said.
The forward who compares his game to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant’s is confident about bringing another championship to Lexington.
“If we get who we’re looking at then I guarantee you we will get a championship,” he said.
But who exactly would Willis like to play with at UK?
“I would want Julius Randle, the Harrison twins, Wiggins of course,” Willis said.
He added that “the Harrison twins, I think, are a definite for sure” to join him at UK.
Willis, who was a consensus top 30 player in the 2013 class has fallen off ever since his commitment to UK.
“I thought it was flattering to be a top 30 player in the nation,” said Willis, “but when I fell off I was a little disappointed, but you know it’s nothing to worry about because they don’t really mean anything.”
But Willis does admit he has some parts of his game he would like to polish before setting foot on UK’s campus next fall.
“I’d like to put on more weight, like 10 pounds,” he said. “And just improve on everything. And school work, too, not just basketball.”
Willis stays in contact with the coaching staff at UK about extra things he can do to ensure he is prepared for the 2013-14 season.
In the meantime, he will spend his time focusing on the upcoming season for his Bullitt East High School team, where he hopes to make a run at not only a state championship, but also the Mr. Kentucky Basketball award.
“We’re hoping to get back to state,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the hardest year to do that.”