"I saw him play in an AAU game and it was incredible to see a kid that size handle the ball, pass the ball and shoot from the 3-point line. I think it is unreal for everyone the first time you see him play. It's an amazing thing to see," said Barr. "That was his freshman year and I was going to watch some of our kids play and I just kind of looked over and he stood out."
Willis transferred from Louisville Male to Bullitt East and made a huge name for himself with his AAU?play last summer. Barr thinks his 6-9 junior now has to learn how to play at a higher level all the team.
"He does work really hard. One of the things Derek does do that he is going to have to work on is he does play to the level of his competition. When you see us play a really good team, he will pick it up. When you see us play somebody not as talented, he will play down to that level. He's going to a really good school and he is going to have to play well all the time there," Barr said.
"Our school and community are buzzing about his commitment. The next 18 months or so are going to be a lot of fun and hard work. There will be some up times, some down times with it. He has a great head on his shoulders and we have a great staff of coaches here and we will get through it. He will have a great senior year."
Barr is still baffled that Willis, ranked as the 33rd best recruit in the 2013 class by Scout, seems to continue to be underrated by many, including some who have questioned if he's even good enough to play at Kentucky.
"It is weird and I am not sure why people are not giving him the credit that he deserves. I?know they are going to watch him play in this high school season, but that doesn't show what got him to where he is during the AAU season," Barr said. "He came on the scene this summer and did some incredible things with his AAU team against very good competition. It's fine. He can have his doubters, but he's going to prove all of them wrong.
"I welcome the skeptics from the Internet. I welcome the skeptics on the (Internet) message boards. Keep doing it because it is going to make him better. It will only motivate him."
Barr knows exactly what he wishes more fans knew about Willis — and it has nothing to do with his numerous basketball skills.
"I wish they knew how humble that kid is. I am like everybody else. I get on the websites and I see the comments that people make about him having a bad attitude and nothing could be further from the truth. You can ask his teachers. You can ask his teammates. He is one of the most humble, nice kids you are going to meet. He is a pleasure to work with on a daily basis and I?love him to death," Barr said.
"The number one thing he is concerned about is winning basketball games. For us sometimes he blocks shots, sometimes he rebounds, sometimes he scores, sometimes he does all three. Sometimes he just passes the ball. He leads team in assists and that says a lot about him as a player and person that he wants to have his teammates involved."