LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 40th Annual Kentucky Derby Basketball Classic brought together several college bound prospects Friday night at Freedom Hall, including UK signees Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis.
The future Wildcats were part of the victorious Black squad that claimed a 124-113 victory in front of 10,500 fans at Freedom Hall.
Willis started off slow in the game but revealed his versatility on the court as play progressed. The three-star combo forward finished with six points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots for the winners.
Willis exhibited his ability to handle the basketball at 6-foot-9 and set his teammates up for easy baskets with crafty passes in the paint. His future teammate, Hawkins, took notice.
"Playing with Derek, he's a special guy," said Hawkins, who scored four points and had two steals. "He can dribble the ball for a big guy and he can shoot the ball. And not a lot of big guys can do that."
Willis, a native of nearby Mt. Washington who starred for Bullitt East High School, conceded that the all-star format was not a great fit for his overall skills.
"I don't really like all-star games because I feel like I have to be selfish, and I am really about the team," he said. "It was different, but I kind of came out with a different attitude and a different motive."
Not only did the future Cats get a first-hand look at the rival competition from Indiana and Louisville, but there were also several fellow SEC players featured in the game. Former Oak Hill Academy point guard Sindarius Thornwell, a South Carolina signee, joined Hawkins and Willis on the Black team. The White team had future Tennessee prospect Robert Hubbs and LSU forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin.
Willis said he was especially surprised by the skill set of the 6-foot-8, 215-pound Martin. "I thought he was going to be a back-to-the-basket post player, but he is really versatile and he's going to be really good for LSU."
Although his team came out on the losing end, Martin finished the game with 20 points and five rebounds. The McDonald's All-American was 9-of-11 from the field as he demonstrated his complete offensive game.
And, of course, no all-star basketball event would be complete without mention of No. 1 prospect in the country, UK target Andrew Wiggins. When asked to predict where the Wiggins saga will end up, Willis insisted he knows as much (or as little) as anyone else.
"That's like the golden question in college basketball," Willis said. "But as far as I know, I'm trying to figure it out just like anybody else is."
Hawkins surpassed the prediction and went straight for a personal recruiting pitch to land the nations top amateur player: "We need you down in Big Blue Nation to get No. 9."
Future Wildcats team in Derby Classic
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