Former UK Player Derek Willis Playing Well in G-League

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images /

Former Wildcat Derek Willis is showing his prowess in the G-League.

One year removed from Big Blue Nation, Derek Willis is trying to prove he’s worthy of an NBA roster spot. Willis is a part of the Grand Rapids Drive of the G-League. In last night’s game Willis had 21 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

Willis was a 3-star player out of high school and part of John Calipari’s 2013 recruiting class. That class included the likes of Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison twins.

Willis was the only member of that recruiting class to stay all four years at Kentucky. However, his impact was not felt until his junior season. That year Willis averaged 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and shot 44% from behind the arc.

Willis had similar stats during his senior year, with an incremental increase in his rebounds. His 3-point percentage did drop slightly during the 2016-17 season to 37%. Through 13 games this year in the G-League, Willis is averaging just over 12 points per game.

While not seen as a one-and-done player that Calipari typically recruits, Willis has the type of game that fits today’s NBA. At 6’9”, Willis fits the bill for a prototypical stretch-4. Willis’ ability to shoot the three makes him an invaluable role player.

The NBA has become all about spacing. Willis’ skill set is highly coveted in the league. He’s also not opposed to throwing down a dunk from time to time. See video.

The G-League will allow Willis to continue to improve his game. Riding the bench, only to fill out a 15-man roster, isn’t going to get him the experience he needs. Don’t be surprised to see Willis on an NBA roster as the season progresses.