Apr 272014
Derek Willis

Derek Willis

Derek Willis tweeted Sunday night that he will return to Kentucky next season.

Willis played sparingly in his freshman season with the Wildcats, and rumors of a possible departure escalated Saturday after a Yahoo Sports report that he was exploring a transfer.

The 6-foot-9 forward said Sunday night that those rumors are “annoying and untrue.” His father and former high school coach have also said in recent days that Willis will not leave the program.

Willis scored 16 points in a total of 39 minutes as a freshman at UK. He never played more than 6 minutes in any game and did not play in the NCAA Tournament.

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Apr 182013
UK commitment Derek Willis will play in the Derby Festival Classic on Friday in Freedom Hall. File photo: Timothy D. Easley

UK commitment Derek Willis will play in the Derby Festival Classic on Friday in Freedom Hall.
File photo: Timothy D. Easley

Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins aren’t McDonald’s All-Americans, but they definitely aren’t intimidated by them.

The two in-state stars are the only members of UK’s eight-man recruiting class who haven’t played on national television this month. The other six appeared in the McDonald’s Game in Chicago and the Jordan Classic in Brooklyn.

Both Willis and Hawkins acknowledged Wednesday that they might be overlooked going into next season. They’re taking a bring-it-on-approach to their first year with the Wildcats.

“We’re going to be a bulls-eye,” Hawkins said. “Everybody’s going to want to whup on us. It’s like whupping on your little brother, because we’re so young. Everybody’s going to want to beat us down, but we’re just going to have to come every day with our 110-percent game.”

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Mar 202013

With the addition of Julius Randle, UK’s recruiting class of 2013 now consists of seven players — six of whom are McDonald’s All-Americans.

Here’s a closer look at the next wave of Wildcats:

UK’s recruiting class of 2013
Player Pos Ht Wt Hometown Rivals Scout ESPN 24/7
Aaron Harrison SG 6-5 205 Houston, Texas 4 4 7 3
Andrew Harrison PG 6-5 205 Houston, Texas 5 3 5 4
Dakari Johnson C 6-11 250 New York City 13 18 11 13
Marcus Lee F 6-9 200 Antioch, Calif. 18 21 18 9
Julius Randle PF 6-8 240 Plano, Texas 2 5 3 2
Derek Willis SF 6-9 200 Mt. Washington, Ky. 129 64
James Young G/F 6-6 200 Rochester, Mich. 10 10 6 11
Mar 082013
UK commitment Derek Willis will play in the Derby Festival Classic on April 17 in Freedom Hall. File photo: Timothy D. Easley

UK commitment Derek Willis will play in the Derby Festival Classic on April 17 in Freedom Hall.
File photo: Timothy D. Easley

Bullitt East didn’t make it back to the Sweet Sixteen this season, but Kentucky signee Derek Willis was in Rupp Arena on Friday to pick up his 6th Region player of the year award.

Willis, wearing a blue UK shirt, talked to reporters after receiving the award and offered some predictions on the “Big Three” recruits still on John Calipari’s radar.

He was most confident about Julius Randle, who will announce his college decision March 20.

“I think Randle’s probably a lock,” Willis said. “That’s my opinion. He could do whatever, but I think he’ll come.”

Randle has narrowed his list to UK, Kansas, Texas and Florida.

Next up was Andrew Wiggins, and Willis is just as perplexed as everyone else by that recruitment.

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Feb 262013
UK commitment Derek Willis will play in the Derby Festival Classic on April 17 in Freedom Hall. File photo: Timothy D. Easley

UK commitment Derek Willis will play in the Derby Festival Classic on April 19 in Freedom Hall.
File photo: Timothy D. Easley

Kentucky commitment Derek Willis, two future Louisville Cardinals and three McDonald’s All-Americans highlight the list of players chosen to participate in this year’s Derby Festival Classic.

The rosters were announced Tuesday for the April 19 game in Freedom Hall.

With UK’s other five commitments selected for the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic, Willis will be the only Wildcat in Louisville for the Derby Classic. High school seniors are allowed by NCAA rules to play in only two post-season all-star events.

Willis will be the first UK commitment to play in the game since Stacey Poole Jr. in 2010.

Louisville will be represented by Anton Gill and Akoy Agau, who will play on the team opposite Willis. Indiana has the most participants in this year’s game: Devin Davis, Luke Fischer, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams, who at one time was being heavily recruited by Kentucky.

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Weekend recap: Dakari Johnson visits Kentucky

 Posted by at 1:33 AM on February 25, 2013  5 Responses »
Feb 252013
UK commitment Dakari Johnson posed for a picture with ESPN analyst Jay Bilas during his official visit Saturday.

UK commitment Dakari Johnson posted a picture of himself with ESPN analyst Jay Bilas during his official visit to Lexington on Saturday.

Wrapping up the biggest storylines of the weekend …

UK commitment Dakari Johnson finally got to take his official visit to Lexington. The 7-foot senior was at Sayre — where he attended middle school — on Friday, took in the ESPN Gameday festivities on Saturday morning and returned to Rupp for UK’s big win over Missouri on Saturday night. Johnson sat directly behind the Wildcats bench during the game, cheering along with the rest of the crowd while wearing a UK sweatshirt and hat. He later tweeted a photo from inside the UK locker room with the message: “Trying to hang one next year.” Johnson, who committed in January, can sign with Kentucky on April 17.

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Jan 192013

Derek Willis scored 27 points in Bullitt East’s come-from-behind victory over Hillcrest (Mo.) on Saturday.
File photo: Timothy D. Easley

UK signee Derek Willis had 27 points, eight rebounds and made several clutch plays down the stretch to lead Bullitt East to a 59-55 victory over Hillcrest (Mo.) in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions on Saturday.

Willis hit two free throws with 5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 50 and force overtime. The Chargers trailed by 13 points early in the fourth quarter.

With Bullitt East ahead 55-54 in the final seconds of the extra period, Willis blocked a shot, grabbed the loose ball and was fouled. He made both free throws with 5 seconds left, and the Chargers held on for the victory. Willis was 7-for-7 from the line, 9-for-14 from the field and made two of three three-point attempts.

Bullitt East (16-4) won two of three games at the annual tournament in Springfield, Mo. Willis averaged 21.0 points and 8.3 rebounds during the event.

Jan 182013

UK signee Derek Willis had 19 points and nine rebounds in Bullitt East’s victory Friday night in Missouri.
File photo: Jonathan Palmer

UK signee Derek Willis had 19 points and nine rebounds in Bullitt East’s 68-58 victory over Little Rock Hall (Ark.) on Friday night at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo.

Willis added six assists and six blocked shots for the Chargers, who improved to 15-4 on the season. Elliot Young had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Rusty Troutman chipped in with 14 points for Bullitt East.

Arkansas signee Bobby Portis led Little Rock Hall with 18 points and eight rebounds. Portis, a 6-foot-9 forward ranked by ESPN as the No. 11 overall senior in the country, was held to just three points in the first half.

Bullitt East will play Hillcrest (Mo.) on Saturday.

Montverde (Fla.) 78, Nixa (Mo.) 61: UK commitment Dakari Johnson had 18 points and seven rebounds in limited action during Friday’s rout in the the semifinals of the Bass Pro tournament in Springfield, Mo.

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Updated stats: Catching up with the future Cats

 Posted by at 4:29 PM on December 30, 2012  1 Response »
Dec 302012

James Young is averaging 23.6 points per game and has Rochester High (Mich.) out to a 5-1 start.
Photo: Ricardo Thomas

Individual game-by-game statistics for 10 recruits have been updated on their respective player pages.

You can view each player’s page by clicking on the links below:

UK signees
Aaron Harrison: The Travis High shooting guard is averaging 30.0 points in 10 games since Dec. 7, when his brother Andrew was sidelined with an injury.
Andrew Harrison: UK’s future point guard has been hampered by a hamstring injury for the last three weeks, and his stats have suffered as a result.
Marcus Lee: Some eye-popping stats are being reported for Lee, who already has three games with 25 or more rebounds.
Derek Willis: The Bullitt East star had his best game of the season Saturday, scoring 30 points and hitting the game-winning three-pointer.
James Young: The Detroit-area wing is averaging 23.6 points through six games and had a season-high 33 points Saturday night.

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Dec 012012

With Derek Willis watching from the bench, No. 2 Bullitt East defeated seventh-ranked Hopkinsville 78-65 at the Marshall County Hoop Fest on Saturday.

Willis, a UK signee regarded by state coaches as the best player in Kentucky, missed the contest as he served the remainder of his two-game suspension, which was a result of his ejection in Monday’s season opener against Lafayette. Willis wore a red and black jumpsuit and sat at the end of the Bullitt East bench Saturday.

The 6-foot-9 senior forward also missed Thursday’s victory over fifth-ranked Henry Clay. He was ejected from the Lafayette game for arguing with officials.

“It’s obviously not fun,” Willis said. “I’m really disappointed in myself, and the way I carried myself in that game. I’m just ready to get back on the floor.

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