She might be more than just a little bit biased, but Keely Willis 
says the perception of her husband, former Kentucky basketball player 
Derek Willis, took a dramatic shift during his second professional 
season in Germany.
    "He went from not being known to being talked about by every team 
there in six months," Keely Willis said. "The NBA remains his end 
goal but we are grateful he has been able to play with and against a 
lot of high talent in Europe.
    After a year in the G-League when he was not drafted by any NBA 
teams, Willis went to Germany. He played in 34 games during the 
2018-19 season and averaged 12 points and five rebounds per game 
before signing a two-year deal after the season ended.
    His second season was suspended by the COVID-19 outbreak and the 
player and his wife were able to barely get back to the United States 
before a travel embargo was put in place. However, Willis said he 
"definitely enjoyed" playing in Europe.
    "I played in the International League and the German League both 
this last season. We went to some cool countries. One day you might 
be playing in Israel, then Germany the next day and then on to 
Spain," he said. "The International League is the second highest 
level league in Europe."
    He said he had "great teammates" and a solid team.
    "I was the No. 1 ranked 3-point shooter and had the highest shooting 
percentage in the Europe Cup," he said. "I thought I played well. I 
was ranked in rebounding, blocked shots and other categories in the 
league. So I think I had a pretty good year."
    His plan has been to increase his level of league play each year and 
so far he has. He's moved from the G-League to the International 
League. Next would be the Euro League or the NBA.
    "I want to play Euro League and then try to make the NBA again," 
Willis said. "That's the logical path and plan. When I watch the Euro 
League, to me the players play harder and are more physical than the 
NBA. It's a very overlooked league and not respected in America like 
it should be.
    "You are playing against some guys and teams I have huge respect for 
and what they do is completely different. Top level European play is 
pretty competitive and sometimes I feel like it is tougher to play 
and succeed in that league than it is in the NBA."
    One plus last season was former UK teammate Isaiah Briscoe was on 
Willis' team for a few months.
    "It was good to catch up with him and see how he has grown as a 
person and player," Willis said.
    Another former UK player, Archie Goodwin, was also Willis' teammate 
and his former UK teammate, Dominique Hawkins, played in a different 
league but lived only about 17 miles away from Willis and his wife.
    Keely Willis volunteered to coach a basketball team for players with 
special needs and often convinced her husband to help her.
    "After he would get done with his practice, our team would practice 
and sometimes Derek would run around with the guys and play 
basketball," Keely said. "If he was not there, I would play."
    The couple spent time trying to learn the German language, a 
necessity for Keely to get an office job. She says the players' wives 
and girlfriends were all "close" and she also picked up a new hobby — 
    "I really want to try and make a career out of photography to make 
the most of the situation I am in since I can't do what most of my 
friends back in the states do job-wise," she said.
    "Fortunately, I got to travel a lot, too. We are 40 minutes from 
Switzerland, 45 minutes from Austria, four hours from Italy and a 
couple of hours from France. We are near everything. So I had a lot 
to keep me busy, including figuring things out for Derek's nutrition. 
But I really did love being there and would not mind going back at all."
Speculation about
football season
    While speculation continues about whether there will be a 2020 
college football season, the same is true for the high school season. 
No one yet knows when high school sports will resume, either, due to 
    That made me wonder what impact coaches thought it would have on 
their communities if there was no high school football this fall.
    "I think our schools and communities have already been hit hard by 
all the cancellations and social distancing. If we are still in this 
situation two months from now, I think high school sports will be the 
least of our worries," Danville coach Clay Clevenger said.
    "Being a small school that prides itself on being competitive 
academically as well as athletically it would be a major blow to our 
school not to play football," Somerset coach Robbie Lucas said. "Our 
spring athletes have been crushed by not being able to compete my 
youngest daughter is a softball player. As a coach its very difficult 
to see the hard work of those athletes and coaches not be realized."
    Adrian Morton expects to have 31 seniors on his team at Ballard and 
the team is also supposed to be playing in a new stadium in Louisville.
    "After playing every game on the road last season, our guys really 
want their careers to end on a positive memory," Morton said. "They 
deserve to have a senior night and hear the home fans cheer for them 
and I really want them to have that moment."
    Casey County coach Steve Stonebraker, who is also the school's 
athletics director, was "heartbroken" when his girls basketball team 
won a game at the state tourney and then had the season suspended as 
well as the spring sports season.
    "I can't imagine losing a season when I was an athlete. There are 
certainly greater tragedies in life, but I don't know of anyone who 
would rejoice in kids losing an opportunity to participate in 
athletics that they can't get back," Stonebraker said.
    First-year Frederick Douglas coach Nathan McPeek might have more 
future Division I players on his roster than any other coach in 
    "I think it would be a morale killer (if there is no season) but we 
can't sacrifice lives, and put people in harm's way. I would be very 
upset personally not to have a season with our seniors of 2021 but 
spring sport coaches are dealing with that heartbreak for the 2020 
seniors currently," McPeek said.
    "I think football is so important in the country and such a 
financial profit for so many schools/communities it would be a major 
disappointment but safety must be first."
    Mercer County coach David Buchanan said no football would be 
"disappointing and tough" but notes that Mercer is the "home" of the 
Harrodsburg Tankers of the Bataan Death March in World War II. Only 
37 of the 66 National Guard members deployed survived Japanese 
captivity and there is a memorial in their honor in Harrodsburg.
    "Our community has faced much bigger challenges and answered the 
bell heroically. Whatever we have to do, we will do it and do it 
well," Buchanan said.
Experience and depth in UK's backcourt
    Kentucky's backcourt for next year needed experience and depth and 
got both with Creighton transfer Davion Mintz who said getting a 
chance to play at Kentucky was a "blessing" because he wanted to play 
where the team had a chance to win at the highest level.
    "I wanted to be able to show my skill set but also win games," Mintz 
said. "I can do that at Kentucky and hope my playing experience will 
    He averages 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game during 
the 2018-19 season before redshirting last year due to a preseason 
ankle injury. He's a solid free throw shooter—72 percent at Creighton—
and 35 percent shooter from 3-point range.
    He's also started 79 games which could be a huge asset on a team 
that will be dominated by true freshmen next season.
    "He could be perfect for what Kentucky needs," one college coach 
told me. "He's not a big-name guy. He's used to playing a role and 
sharing the ball.
    He can play the point or play off the ball. He can guard multiple 
positions. He was considered a great teammate at Creighton. This 
might not be a flashy pickup for John Calipari but it's a really good 
get for what his next team needs."
King not surprised that Mitchell is sticking
with UK
    Freshman Emma King was not surprised when Kentucky coach Matthew 
Mitchell didn't waste any time making it clear he was not interested 
in the coaching vacancy at Mississippi State, his alma mater.
    Mitchell's success at UK made it easy to speculate that he might be 
interested in the job since State has become one of the elite teams 
not just in the SEC but in the nation.
    "He has talked to us all about how much he loves Kentucky," King 
said. "He makes it very clear where his heart is. He proves every day 
he likes it here.
    "He says all the time he would not rather have any other group. He 
loves going to battle with us. I did not think he was going anywhere 
even before he said it. He is a man of his word. His family enjoys it 
here with him and we love playing for him. So no, I never thought 
about him even leaving."
    She was also not surprised that her coach reacted the way he did 
when sophomore Rhyne Howard did not receive All-American honors from 
the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. She was SEC Player of the 
Year and two other SEC players were named All-American in voting by 
    "That to me … I don't agree with that. Rhyne has proven she is the 
top in the country if not the best. She proves that every game. It 
just does not really make sense she was left off," King said.
    King does know how Howard will react to that omission.
    "She will use this to fuel that fire and that should be pretty scary 
to teams playing us next year," King said.
Handshakes likely things of the past in sports
    If Kentucky coach John Calipari is right, pregame and postgame 
handshakes likely are a thing of the past in college athletics.
    During a recent BBN Live he suggested players and coaches wave or 
just say something to each other rather than the traditional postgame 
handshake. Same before games.
    "In the NCAA Tournament, the national anthem, play it right before 
tipoff. Not 12 minutes where we go out and shake hands and touch and 
talk and spit and cough. Right before tipoff," Calipari said.
    "The game ends, you point. ‘See you after.' Call the guy on the 
phone. These kids stay in touch anyway. You don't need to do it. 
That's just one thing that should change and probably will change."
    Calipari, though, is not one who believes everything needs to 
change. He doesn't want to think about a time with only online 
classes for students.
    "Don't tell me you can do everything online. These young people need 
the interaction. They need to be with other students learning as much 
socially and the interaction and in the company of experts and 
mentors and professors. So don't tell me all of it will be online." 
the UK coach said.
    Quote of the Week: "Well I'm not perfect but I think the challenge 
is the same for everyone, just being bold in not giving into peer 
pressure and sharing the good news. Jesus saves and he loves all," 
Immanuel Quickley on the biggest challenge with showing his faith in 
the spotlight of UK basketball.
    Quote of the Week 2: "I know this about her, she has an uncanny 
ability to turn negative to positive. She will face tougher 
circumstances than being left off a team or bypassed for a job, a 
promotion, a pay raise or an opportunity of any kind we feel we 
deserve," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell on Rhyne Howard being left 
off the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-American team.
    Quote of the Week 3: "If you want to bring joy when everything is 
miserable, do something for someone else. There are always things you 
can do for others," Kentucky coach John Calipari on how to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.

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