Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Derek Willis, a 6-9 forward from Mt. Washington, Ky., on Friday became Kentucky’s first commit in the Class of 2013.
Willis, rated as the No. 23-overall prospect in his class by Rivals.com, picked Kentucky over Louisville, Indiana and Purdue.
“I thought it was great [when they offered],” Willis told reporters in Kentucky. “It’s a top college in the nation. When you have a chance to go there, it’s great.”
“Derek looked me in the eye like a man and said, ‘That’s where I want to go because it’s the best place for me to reach my goals,’” his father, Del Willis, a lifelong Louisville fan, told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Friday. “I told him, ‘If that’s what you want to do, we’re behind you 100 percent.’
“Derek has handled everything really well so far. For a 16-year-old kid, he’s shown a lot of maturity.”
Kentucky has nabbed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation three years running, and Willis gives them a head start on a potential fifth.
John Calipari’s 2012 class is already ranked No. 2 and the Wildcats are involved with several late signees, including Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Tony Parker, Devonta Pollard and Amile Jefferson.
“What sticks out about Willis is his versatility and skill set,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels told The Courier-Journal. “At 6-foot-9, he’s mobile, a pretty good athlete and has very good length. Offensively he shoots the ball well from long range and has great touch around the basket.
“It’s always important to keep a guy of this caliber home and Kentucky made him a priority, especially over the course of the past few months. Any time you can get a top-35 prospect from your area it’s certainly a bonus.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.