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35 Derek Willis

derek willis
Name
Derek Willis
Position
Forward
Class
SR
Hometown (Last School)
Mt. Washington, Ky. (Bullitt East)
Ht
6'9
Wt
220
Seasons
2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2013-14
Birthday
June 21, 1995

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Derek Willis was born Derek Xavier Willis on June 21, 1995, in Louisville, Kentucky to Trudy and Del Willis.  He has two sisters, Ashley and Kylee and one brother Taylor.  His father was a die-hard Louisville fan.

Willis is one of a relatively small number of Native Americans who have played in NCAA Division I basketball. His mother is a member of three tribes—Southern Arapaho, Pawnee, and Muscogee. Although born in Louisville, Kentucky, he lived with his family for several years during his childhood on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. According to Fox Sports writer Reid Forgrave, “His favorite childhood memories are from that reservation.” The family eventually returned to the Louisville area, settling in the city of Mount Washington.

Willis attended Bullitt East High School, where he was a two-time All-State basketball player. He was also a standout football player, leading his team to a state championship in 2012.  Willis scored 17.4 points and hauled in 9.4 rebounds per game as a senior.  As a junior, he averaged 18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds while leading his team to the Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena.  Rivals tabbed Willis as the No. 25 power forward, while Scout had him ranked at No. 27.

Willis originally committed to play at Purdue in his sophomore year of high school but on January 20, 2012, he announced that he would be playing for Kentucky.  Willis signed his national letter of intent to play for Kentucky on November 14, 2012.  He chose Kentucky over Indiana, Louisville, and Purdue.  Joining him in that recruiting class were Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, James Young, Dakari Johnson, and Marcus Lee.

As a freshman at Kentucky, Willis was named to the SEC Academic team.  He appeared in 14 games as a freshman.

As a sophomore, Willis made the SEC Academic Honor Roll for a second straight season and averaged career highs in minutes per game (3.9), points per game (1.3) and rebounds (0.7).  He appeared in 19 games, recording four minutes or more in eight of them.  Willis posted 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, both career highs.  He logged time in three of UK’s five NCAA Tournament games.

Willis enjoyed a breakout season during his junior campaign where he saw action in 32 games and made 11 starts.  He missed four games due to ankle injuries but had career highs in points, points per game, blocks, assists, rebounds, rebounds per game, 3-pointers, field-goal percentage, and minutes.  He became a reliable scoring option for the Wildcats and averaged 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.  Willis hit 53 3-pointers on the season, which ranked third on the team.  His 44.2 field-goal percentage from behind the arc was tops on the team.  Willis led the SEC in 3-point field-goal percentage in conference play with a 50.0-percent clip.  After scoring 122 points in his first 48 career games, he scored 166 over the final 17 games of the season.  Willis drained three 3-pointers after halftime including the game-clinching one in overtime of the SEC championship game against Texas A&M.  He swatted a career-high-tying four blocks and grabbed a team-high-tying seven rebounds while adding 14 points against Georgia in the SEC semifinals.  Willis broke out for a career game in a home victory over Tennessee.  He scored a career-high 25 points while adding a career-best seven made 3-pointers.  His 25 points were the most by a junior in the John Calipari era.  Willis scored 18 points and hauled in a team-high 12 rebounds in a win over Missouri.  The 18-point, 12-rebound effort was the first for a Kentucky native in an SEC game since Sean Woods on Feb. 13, 1991.  He earned his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds at Auburn.  Willis made his first career start against NJIT and posted 11 points, including three made 3-pointers.

As a senior, Wills appeared in all 38 games with 15 starts, including nine straight to end the season.  He was named to the SEC Community Service Team for his contributions in the community.  Playing alongside of some of the best seniors in the country and in front of NBA and international scouts, he averaged 7.3 rebounds, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.  He was tabbed the most valuable player of the West Team at the Reese’s College All-Star Game after recording 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, a block and a steal in 21 minutes.  Willis also made 6 of 11 shots at the Reese’s College All-Star Game.  He posted career highs in nearly every major statistical category, including minutes, points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and averaged 7.0 points and a career-high 5.4 rebounds.  He scored in double figures in 10 games in 2016-17 and finished second on the team with 49 3-point field goals.  Willis averaged 7.0 points and 7.3 rebounds during postseason play.  He grabbed five or more rebounds in 18 of 38 games, including 10 of the last 12.  He hit at least two 3-pointers in six of the last eight games and at least one in nine straight prior to the Elite Eight.  Willis just missed out on a double-double with eight points and eight rebounds in addition to a career-high-tying four assists against No. 8/6 UCLA in the Sweet 16.  He stuffed the stat sheet in the 2017 NCAA Tournament opener against Northern Kentucky with eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks, three assists, and two steals.  Willis grabbed 11 rebounds in addition to seven points and a career-high four blocks against Georgia in the SEC Tournament.  Behind a season-best five 3-pointers, he scored a season-best 18 points to go along with six rebounds against No. 2/1 Kansas.

He played in 103 games over his four-year career with the Wildcats, averaging 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, while making 108 of his 271 shots taken from three-point territory. Willis won the SEC tournament with the Wildcats in 2015, 2016 and 2017, advancing to the NCAA Final Four in 2015. He proposed to his girlfriend on senior night, prior to Kentucky’s home game against Vanderbilt.

Willis went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. He signed with the Detroit Pistons in the summer of 2017 but was waived before the start of the regular season. He joined the Pistons’ G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold, and helped lead the team to the G League championship.

Willis played for the Pistons in the 2018-19 season, appearing in 20 games. He was waived by the Pistons in February 2019 and signed with the Gold for the remainder of the season.

Willis signed with Anadolu Efes in July 2019. He helped the team win the Turkish Basketball Super League championship in 2019 and 2021. He also helped the team win the EuroLeague championship in 2021.

College Statistics:

Per Game

Season G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2013-14 14 0 2.8 0.2 0.6 .333 0.1 0.2 .667 0.1 0.4 .167 0.6 0.9 .750 0.1 0.5 0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.0 1.1
2014-15 19 0 3.9 0.4 0.9 .389 0.1 0.2 .667 0.3 0.8 .333 0.3 0.3 1.000 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.4 0.3 1.3
2015-16 32 11 18.6 2.5 5.3 .482 0.9 1.5 .583 1.7 3.8 .442 1.0 1.1 .889 0.9 3.0 4.0 0.4 0.7 0.8 0.7 1.7 7.7
2016-17 38 15 21.9 2.6 5.4 .478 1.3 2.0 .653 1.3 3.4 .377 0.6 0.8 .688 1.1 4.3 5.4 0.9 0.7 1.0 0.7 2.0 7.0
Career 103 26 15.0 1.8 3.9 .473 0.8 1.3 .628 1.0 2.6 .399 0.7 0.8 .802 0.7 2.7 3.4 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.6 1.3 5.4

Totals

Season G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2013-14 14 0 39 3 9 .333 2 3 .667 1 6 .167 9 12 .750 1 7 8 0 1 0 4 0 16
2014-15 19 0 75 7 18 .389 2 3 .667 5 15 .333 6 6 1.000 5 9 14 5 2 3 8 5 25
2015-16 32 11 596 81 168 .482 28 48 .583 53 120 .442 32 36 .889 30 97 127 12 21 24 22 55 247
2016-17 38 15 833 98 205 .478 49 75 .653 49 130 .377 22 32 .688 40 165 205 34 25 39 26 76 267
Career 103 26 1543 189 400 .473 81 129 .628 108 271 .399 69 86 .802 76 278 354 51 49 66 60 136 555

 

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