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Calipari credits Derek Willis for UK’s improvement, but Willis gives all the credit to Tyler Ulis


John Calipari says Derek Willis has been the catalyst for UK's improvement. (Vicky Graff Photo)

John Calipari says Derek Willis has been the catalyst for UK’s improvement. (Vicky Graff Photo)

One could forgive Derek Willis if he wanted to say I told you so to all those who doubted him after his 18-point, 12-rebound performance in Wednesday’s rout of Missouri, his second double-double in the last four games.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Willis’ play has changed UK since he inserted him into the starting lineup at power forward and cut minutes for both Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere.

Willis downplayed his performance, which included four 3-pointers, including three in a 20-0 run UK had early in the game.

“That’s cool. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a lot of Tyler (Ulis) too. He runs the team, does a lot of great things. He’s got a bigger role than I do, easily. I mean, he’s got to score, he’s got to, like I said, run the team, play good defense, he’s got to play roughly around 40 minutes. I would say the credit is probably to him because without him then there ain’t a team I don’t think,” Willis said

True, but without Willis there is no one to help spread the floor for Ulis or others and help them on offense — and on the boards.

“I would agree with that statement. That’s just what I try to do, play inside-outside and just play hard,” Willis said about his offense. “I always felt that I was a confident shooter. You have your times, you go through a rough patch, but right now I think I’m shooting pretty good I’d say.”

He is. But what he’s doing better is just playing all facets of the game.

Calipari said he asked Willis after the game if he would like to give up some of the minutes he’s earned to players who have lost time on the court. His answer might surprise you.

“It don’t matter. Honestly, it’s whoever is going to help the team win. I don’t care if I play five to 40 minutes. I just want to win. That’s it. I mean, it’s been like that the past two years and I had the same mindset with that,” Willis said.


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  1. Very proud of Derek….be nice if POY and Lee had the same attitude about winning.

  2. I really thought Alex was turning the corner. Very disappointed.

  3. I’ll just stick with praising Willis ! Derrick has paid his dues and it’s showing in Skill & Attitude….

  4. A lot of us here have recognized the potential of Willis to be a star on this team. I think he’s cemented that role now. He won’t go back to being a bench warmer. He knows just what it takes and he can do it. Way to go Derek. As a KY kid myself I always like to see an in-state guy do well.

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