"I decided to come [to Hargrave] and open my recruitment wide open," Willis said. "I'm trying to get out of [Mississippi] and away from home." Willis came up short on the ACT last year and has emerged as a high-major talent at Hargrave.
Listed at 6-8, Willis is all athlete. He runs, jumps and dunks with power. In a drill Hargrave does in which Willis is expected to dunk a series of balls, he never tires. Others in the same drill struggle to finish up. When it's over, Willis is just getting warm and his last dunk was as strong as his initial effort.
Athletically, this guy is amazing. At first glance he resembles Kenyon Martin. Watch him play and he's got some James Thomas (a former Hargrave star) in his game. Last season at Mendenhall in Mississippi, he averaged 21 points, 14 boards and 6 blocks.
Hargrave head coach Kevin Keatts loves him. But, the coach knows he's just scratching the surface. "What's going to make him good is that he's learning that you have to play every possession. One day last week he was the best player in the country."
Consistency, as Keatts astutely points out to him again after practice, is what will determine his success. "He's just now realizing that you have to compete and get after it every day."
Willis wants to be a player and he's going to sign with a big time high-major school, that's for sure. Not bad considering he's less than a household name in most recruiting circles. "I'm a no-namer," Willis said. "Noboby knows Emanuel Willis. If I played at Oak Hill [last year] I'd be ranked higher."
In the big picture, rankings matter little here. South Carolina, Cincinnati, Auburn, Southern Cal and Virginia are his five schools. He's going to start taking some visits soon and he'd be welcomed at each program. Auburn assistant coach Tracy Dildy was on hand Wednesday watching him and everyone else has been in as well.
In summation, Willis is one of those guys who oozes potential. Athleticism is what his game is predicated on. He'll be able to rebound in any league and really is a finisher in the paint. He'll sneak a few mid-range jumpers in on a defender and like his high school coach says, he's still learning to play hard all the time.
Judging from the results of the workout this week, he's a pretty solid pupil.