"He is taking the right classes to prepare himself for college and he's doing more than adequate work there. He's working very hard in school. If he wasn't so tall, you would not even notice him in front of the other students and I?don't mean that in a negative way. That's a very positive thing. He blends in so well with our community and student body."
He'll the first Bullitt East player to play on the men's team at Kentucky — former Miss Basketball Becky McKinley of Bullitt East played at UK before transferring to Bellarmine.
Blackburn thinks Willis' skills will fit well at Kentucky.
"He is the best all-around player we have ever had here if you look at all aspects of his game. He's an outside shooter, can take it inside, Obviously he is the best rebounder we have had in a long time. He's very good," Blackburn said. "He is unique, so it is hard to categorize him. We have probably had kids that were better shooters or ballhandlers.?
"I don't know if we have had anybody that sees the floor as well as he does. I think that probalby is the best part of his game because he passes the ball so well and is so unselfish.
(Coach) Troy Barr is on him all the time to take more shots. We would be an even better team if he was a little bit more selfish. He needs to take what is given to him, but he loves to get others involved and that is probably his best asset.
"As far as ballhandling goes, you would think he is 5-11, 6-0 as far as how he handles the ball. Teams have tried large players on him. They have tried small players on him. I don't think it has really had any effect. He can take it the hole on anybody."
Willis did not have a prepared statement to read when he made his announcement to about 15 media members and others Friday. Instead, he went without a script, another indication to Blackburn that the "annoying" recruiting process has helped the mild-mannered Willis mature.
"I think this this has all been good for him. He is probably a little bit more outgoing now than he was before he started getting all this recruiting attention," Blackburn said. "He likes to defer to his teammates all he can. This has caused him to have to stand a little more at the forefront.
"I think he has learned, we've learned. It has been good for all the kids on the team to be around this type of atmosphere and see what it is all about and it has really been great for Derek."