Willis Takes Flight With Wings
Arkansas had a lot of top young talent at its Elite Basketball Camp last Saturday, but one of the best was from just a stone's throw away from Bud Walton Arena.
That would be Fayetteville junior guard Payton WIllis (6-4, 165), who built off a solid sophomore high school season with an impressive spring and summer AAU campaign and is getting interest from the Razorbacks, Mississippi State, South Alabama and Rice.
Willis, who has a 35-inch vertical leap, helped lead the Arkansas Wings to the Nike Peach Jam and 16-and-under AAU national titles in the last two weeks of the summer.
“It was exciting,” Willis said. “I missed a lot of it with a broken ankle, but I came back for the last two tournaments and we won both the Peach Jam and the nationals. It was fun.”
The Wings actually played subpar in pool play at the Peach Jam before reeling off three straight wins in bracket play and kept that momentum going at the national tournament in Louisville.
“The first couple of pool games we hadn't really been practicing a lot and we had to get into a groove,” Willis said. “It was really win or go home time and it finally starting clicking for us.”
Willis averaged 14 points for the Purple Bulldogs as a sophomore, but thinks he got much better over the spring and summer that began with him being named the MVP of the Real Deal on the Hill while leading his team to the title.
“My shot got better,” Willis said. “I had been working on it since my ankle was broke because I really couldn't move a lot. I also improved my basketball I. I started studying the game a little bit more.”
He has two areas pinpointed that he has to get better in.
“Definitely defense and getting stronger,” Willis said.
Willis is part of a talented 2016 class that also includes Bentonville's Malik Monk – a top five player nationally – North Little Rock's Adrian Moore and Maumelle's De'Shawn Williams, who played last season at Dallas' Prime Prep Academy.
“We're all cool with each other,” Willis said. “We're all friends. We all know we can play.”
Willis, who did not participate in the Arkansas camp due to a sore ankle, would definitely love to have a Razorback offer.
“I like the style of play – uptempo,” Willis said. “ They get after it on the defensive end. I like that...They're my home school team. I love them. I definitely want an offer from them.”
He is basketball teammates with Arkansas tight end commit C.J. O'Grady (6-5, 230) of Fayetteville.
“(He brings)energy and defense,” Willis said. “He's another leader and he can help me bring the ball up the court as well.”
Willis will become more of a leader this season since Fayetteville had some seniors graduate.
“Last year I was with a bunch of seniors and I learned a lot from them,” Willis said. “So I'll just carry on what I learned.”
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