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  1. #1

    Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    By LARRY VAUGHT

    His first year in the G League was best described as “up and down” by former Kentucky player Derek Willis.

    He averaged 11.8 points. 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game for Grand Rapids and shot 47 percent from the field in 43 games.

    “I think the biggest thing I learned was just understanding the business part of it,” said Willis, who is still not certain about his playing plans for next season. “There is so much more to it than just playing basketball. I kind of got my head wrapped around it better now. The G League was cool and fun at times. It was a lot different than UK.”

    Willis will marry Keely Potts — remember he proposed to her before his Senior Day game — on Saturday. One of his groomsmen will be Landry Nnoko, a teammate at Grand Rapids who was the G League Defensive Player of the Year. He led the league in rebounds (11.5) and was fourth in blocks per game (2.06). He had 27 double-doubles in 49 games and averaged 14.7 points per game.

    “He had a great season and never got called up (to the NBA) all year,” Willis said. “I will most likely play overseas next season. I can’t do the G League again. I know they would be upping my salary next season but the money is all to better overseas. I should get a lot better contract overseas. Now I wish I had done that coming out of UK really. I just want to find a play to go, get a chance to play and show what I can do.”

  2. #2

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Derek will do well oversea. He has the talent to be a good Europlayer, make a good living, set himself up nicely if wise with his money, and have a wonderful experience that many people only dream of for the next 5 to 10 years.


    You can get bitter or you can get better....I choose better

  3. #3
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    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Says a lot about the G League that a kid from a small town in KY who is about to get married would prefer to go overseas than stay "home" to play. Granted, he and his bride-to-be may see the chance to go overseas as an opportunity to have that experience, and with that I would completely agree.
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  4. #4

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Bakert View Post
    Says a lot about the G League that a kid from a small town in KY who is about to get married would prefer to go overseas than stay "home" to play. Granted, he and his bride-to-be may see the chance to go overseas as an opportunity to have that experience, and with that I would completely agree.
    Says a lot about the G-League.

  5. #5

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Bakert View Post
    Says a lot about the G League that a kid from a small town in KY who is about to get married would prefer to go overseas than stay "home" to play. Granted, he and his bride-to-be may see the chance to go overseas as an opportunity to have that experience, and with that I would completely agree.
    I don't take it that way. I think it says more about Willis recognizing where he can make his money. IMO he isn't NBA talent but is overseas talent so kudo's to him and his advisors for recognizing that and capitalizing on it, earning money while he can. Contrasted to say a person like Patrick Patterson who spent time in the D league but was an NBA talent eventually. Ditto for Terrance Jones. Those guys used the D (now G) league for the purpose of getting to the NBA. Willis' future isn't the NBA so he shouldn't waste time playing in Rockford or Grand Rapids


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  6. #6
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    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    I don't take it that way. I think it says more about Willis recognizing where he can make his money. IMO he isn't NBA talent but is overseas talent so kudo's to him and his advisors for recognizing that and capitalizing on it, earning money while he can. Contrasted to say a person like Patrick Patterson who spent time in the D league but was an NBA talent eventually. Ditto for Terrance Jones. Those guys used the D (now G) league for the purpose of getting to the NBA. Willis' future isn't the NBA so he shouldn't waste time playing in Rockford or Grand Rapids
    I don't disagree, but the "I can't do the G League again" comment sounds to me more about how bad that experience was than I can make more money elsewhere. Certainly that comes into play, but taking into account getting married it's a much bigger decision to go overseas. Regardless, I agree that he is making a decision that acknowledges his talent level and I applaud him for that as well as his willingness to do take advantage of the opportunity to experience something like living and playing overseas.
    "The greatest obstacle to knowledge is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge."
    - Daniel J. Boorstin

  7. #7

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Bakert View Post
    I don't disagree, but the "I can't do the G League again" comment sounds to me more about how bad that experience was than I can make more money elsewhere. Certainly that comes into play, but taking into account getting married it's a much bigger decision to go overseas. Regardless, I agree that he is making a decision that acknowledges his talent level and I applaud him for that as well as his willingness to do take advantage of the opportunity to experience something like living and playing overseas.
    He may have been speaking of both it being a bad experience and one that paid exceedingly bad.

  8. #8

    Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by KeithKSR View Post
    He may have been speaking of both it being a bad experience and one that paid exceedingly bad.
    That's kinda how I took it.

  9. #9

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    The G League is very rough, right now. it's crazy how these kids would rather do that than be at UK, and just last year most of them that went early to the G League all said so publicly. How it was just what the critics here said it was: low pay, lots of hours, little time for practice or development, and a low standard of living with buses and cheaper hotels.

    But the NBA sees a future in it. They're looking at the capitalization values of minor league baseball, which has become more profitable by becoming cheap family entertainment.

    They think they can make it a viable product, or at least a number of them do. I imagine they aren't unanimous. We'll see if they do it.
    Saigon. .... I'm still only in Saigon

  10. #10

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    The G league is sort of a nebula right now. Its different things for different people and its purpose depends on who you are. For D. Willis, it was not going to help much. He wasn't a borderline NBAer who needed exposure or a player an NBA team needed to hide til a roster spot opened. Nor was he a player coming out of a school that played lower competition and he didn't get exposure, or a kid who needed time to physically mature. All those are cases where the G, aka D, league can be of benefit. He is a player who is going to make excellent money overseas. He gave the NBA a shot but it didnt pan out.....now go where you fit. Sometime "bad experiences" make you a better person, make you appreciate what you now have. I'm betting that long run it will be a positive.
    Last edited by Doc; 07-23-2018 at 06:59 AM.


    You can get bitter or you can get better....I choose better

  11. #11

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post
    But the NBA sees a future in it. They're looking at the capitalization values of minor league baseball, which has become more profitable by becoming cheap family entertainment.
    In order for the G League to approach the minor league baseball system the NBA would need to completely change its draft philosophy. MLB teams draft kids specifically to place them in the minors to develop until they are ready to play in the Majors. The NBA goes with the philosophy that you need to produce within two seasons or you are out.

    How many MLB All Stars skipped the minor leagues? How many NBA All Stars played in the G (D)-League? You can’t bill the G-League as watching tomorrow’s big stars, and that is a huge draw for minor league baseball.

  12. #12
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    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by KeithKSR View Post
    In order for the G League to approach the minor league baseball system the NBA would need to completely change its draft philosophy. MLB teams draft kids specifically to place them in the minors to develop until they are ready to play in the Majors. The NBA goes with the philosophy that you need to produce within two seasons or you are out.

    How many MLB All Stars skipped the minor leagues? How many NBA All Stars played in the G (D)-League? You can’t bill the G-League as watching tomorrow’s big stars, and that is a huge draw for minor league baseball.
    Great points. And right now you see the starts of tomorrow playing for your university, something that has a much greater appeal than any minor league team will.

    In addition, there is just something different about going out to a small town ballpark, paying $10 for a ticket, and watching a game. I may see baseball as boring, but that has the benefit of making it a great way to socialize. I'm guessing there are some places where people see each other as much at the ballpark as they do anyplace else in the community. I just don't get that with basketball. Could just be me but there seems to be something very different about a lazy summer evening at a minor league baseball game and going out on a winter evening to watch basketball. No doubt there are those that would choose the latter 10-to-1 over the former but I'm just not convinced that it will ever work. Maybe I've seen Bull Durham too many times and am romanticizing the appeal of minor league baseball a bit more than I should, but I just can't see that translating to basketball.
    "The greatest obstacle to knowledge is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge."
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  13. #13
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    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post
    The G League is very rough, right now. it's crazy how these kids would rather do that than be at UK, and just last year most of them that went early to the G League all said so publicly.
    So are you trying to be Presidential? Didn't you mean to say "it's crazy how these kids wouldn't rather do that than be at UK,..." I seem to remember an article in which a few former UK players were critical of the G League and said they wished they had stayed at UK another year.
    "The greatest obstacle to knowledge is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge."
    - Daniel J. Boorstin

  14. #14

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Bakert View Post
    Great points. And right now you see the starts of tomorrow playing for your university, something that has a much greater appeal than any minor league team will.

    In addition, there is just something different about going out to a small town ballpark, paying $10 for a ticket, and watching a game. I may see baseball as boring, but that has the benefit of making it a great way to socialize. I'm guessing there are some places where people see each other as much at the ballpark as they do anyplace else in the community. I just don't get that with basketball. Could just be me but there seems to be something very different about a lazy summer evening at a minor league baseball game and going out on a winter evening to watch basketball. No doubt there are those that would choose the latter 10-to-1 over the former but I'm just not convinced that it will ever work. Maybe I've seen Bull Durham too many times and am romanticizing the appeal of minor league baseball a bit more than I should, but I just can't see that translating to basketball.
    I don't think you are over romanticizing the minor league appeal at all. A lot of these teams have been in their respective cities for decades and have a loyal following. There is a sense of pride among these fans as having seen players before they were stars. If you watch a Reds farm team, then you know that these players could one day play for the Reds.


    Some of the G-League teams are even in the same city as their sponsor team, which means they compete against them for fans. Players aren't all affiliated with the NBA team that is attached to their team. The OKC G-League team could have someone signed off it to be the 13th guy and sit the bench for 10 games with another team. It doesn't quite build the same rapport with fans.

  15. #15

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Bakert View Post
    So are you trying to be Presidential? Didn't you mean to say "it's crazy how these kids wouldn't rather do that than be at UK,..." I seem to remember an article in which a few former UK players were critical of the G League and said they wished they had stayed at UK another year.
    No, I meant "it's crazy how these kids WOULD rather do that [go to the G league] than be at UK." Pretty sure I said it right.

    And I have cited that article many times. I have contended for years it's a dumb move, b/c they don't get the coaching or development or practice time. I oft hear "no more classes to suck up their time", which is comical. They take 12 hour loads with full tutoring, they are giving that up and taking on a 80ish game schedule instead, with lots of travel. No way do they have more "time to develop" versus the Lodge 100' from their bed. No way.

    But I said it right, and the fact that the G League is not that today doesn't mean some forces in the NBA don't want it to one day be that way. that's what going back to drafting out of high school is about. They know that didn't work for them, putting the kids straight in the league. but drafting them and putting them in the G league would. Thus the push to up the salaries, etc.

    I'm not saying they'll pull it off, i'm just saying what at least a good number of them are planning. There is absolutely no reason to go back to sending pro scouts to high school games and trying to supplant the AAU system if they don't have a viable minor league with which to back it up.

    Yes, they will overhaul the draft system for it. Yes, they will increase the salaries and make it more appealing. At least some of them want to, we'll see what they do.
    Saigon. .... I'm still only in Saigon

  16. #16

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    If the NBA really wanted kids straight from high school they wouldn’t keep pushing the date for abolishing the OAD rule further into the future. The earliest group that will be able to go high school to the NBA is now 2021.

    Are they delaying in hopes that the push to overturn OAD fades?

  17. #17

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post
    No, I meant "it's crazy how these kids WOULD rather do that [go to the G league] than be at UK." Pretty sure I said it right.

    And I have cited that article many times. I have contended for years it's a dumb move, b/c they don't get the coaching or development or practice time. I oft hear "no more classes to suck up their time", which is comical. They take 12 hour loads with full tutoring, they are giving that up and taking on a 80ish game schedule instead, with lots of travel. No way do they have more "time to develop" versus the Lodge 100' from their bed. No way.

    But I said it right, and the fact that the G League is not that today doesn't mean some forces in the NBA don't want it to one day be that way. that's what going back to drafting out of high school is about. They know that didn't work for them, putting the kids straight in the league. but drafting them and putting them in the G league would. Thus the push to up the salaries, etc.

    I'm not saying they'll pull it off, i'm just saying what at least a good number of them are planning. There is absolutely no reason to go back to sending pro scouts to high school games and trying to supplant the AAU system if they don't have a viable minor league with which to back it up.

    Yes, they will overhaul the draft system for it. Yes, they will increase the salaries and make it more appealing. At least some of them want to, we'll see what they do.
    I couldn't disagree with this more. Minor league baseball was, and continues to be, a financial disaster for MLB. Who wants that as a business model?

    Football is ideal, with a built-in, no cost farm system that also showcases future stars and helps sell tickets.

    College basketball could get there if the NCAA ever gets beyond the idiot amateur rule. The last thing the NBA wants to do is take on the costs of player development.
    My mother used to tell me, "Elwood, in this world, you must be oh, so smart or oh, so nice." For years I was smart. I recommend nice. You may quote me. - Elwood P. Dowd

  18. #18

    Re: Former Wildcat Willis discusses basketball future

    Quote Originally Posted by Genuine Realist View Post
    College basketball could get there if the NCAA ever gets beyond the idiot amateur rule. The last thing the NBA wants to do is take on the costs of player development.
    The NBA hasn't show it is really much on player development. Guys gain from natural maturity and from gaining experience, but really don't develop in either the G-League or the NBA.

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