Kentucky senior forward Derek Willis concluded play at the 65th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Virginia, on Saturday, and had his best game of the tournament on the final day of the event.
In three games, including two starts, Willis averaged 7.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He hit 4-of-9 3-point attempts during the tournament and shot 39.1 percent from the field in leading his team, Sales Systems, Ltd., to a 2-1 record.
The four-day Portsmouth Invitational Tournament showcases 64 of college basketball’s best seniors for NBA and international scouts.
Willis opened play Thursday with five points, four rebounds and three steals in a one-point victory. He then scored six points on 3-of-7 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked a shot in 28 minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward from Mount Washington, Kentucky, then came off the bench to score 11 points and knock down 3-of-5 3-pointers in his team’s tournament finale. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists with just one turnover in 25 minutes of that game.
Last week’s Portsmouth Invitational wasn’t the only time Willis has played well in front of talent evaluators this spring. He shined at the Reese’s College All-Star Game on March 31 at University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the 2017 Final Four. Competing against some of the top seniors in all of college basketball, Willis earned MVP honors for the West Team when he scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. His 13 points were the second most on his team and his 21 minutes played tied a team high.
For his UK career, Willis scored 555 points (5.4 per game), grabbed 354 rebounds and hit 108 3-pointers at a 39.9 percent clip. His career 3-point field goal percentage ranks 12th all-time in Kentucky basketball history.
After playing limited time as a freshman and sophomore, Willis broke out midway through his junior season and ended up playing an integral role for that team as a player who stretched the floor, starting 11 games. He averaged a career-high 7.7 points and pulled down 4.0 rebounds per game that season. He hit a career-high 53 3-pointers as a junior and shot a career-high 44.2 percent from 3-point range.
As a senior, Willis started 15 of 38 games and averaged 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Willis greatly improved on the defensive end as the year progressed. After blocking 21 shots through his first 29 games, Willis swatted 18 shots over his last nine games.
During the postseason this year, Willis averaged 7.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He started all seven postseason games and played 26.6 minutes per game during that stretch.
Willis was a member of four NCAA Tournament teams at Kentucky, three Southeastern Conference regular-season championships, three SEC Tournament titles and two Final Four appearances.
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