By LARRY VAUGHT
Ask Derek Willis a question during a media interview session and he’ll give you a straight forward answer. He does not dodge questions. He just doesn’t go overboard with answers.
For his girlfriend, Keely Potts, that’s frustrating because she doesn’t think Kentucky fans have had a chance to see his real personality.
“We are always telling him to open up and smile. He does care. I am also very open. He is open but you have to catch him at the right time. But I freak out in front of a camera, too,” she said. “He is goofy. He has a personality. It will come out. He is going to be dancing next year at Big Blue Madness. Maybe everybody will see the real Derek then.”
A dancing Derek Willis? That would make attending Big Blue Madness a memorable outing by itself.
“He dances. He thinks he can dance. He is just a completely different person than he is on public side,” she said.
So he can really dance?
“He can dance. He can move,” Potts , who was on the UK dance team as a freshman, said. “Not as good as me. I have taught him the best I could.”
We got a chance to see a bit of Willis’ humor when he announced on Twitter that him and Potts were becoming parents. What he didn’t say until about 30 minutes later on Twitter was that they had purchased a pet baby rabbit.
“We went to the pet store like five different times. We kept leaving and coming back. He was like we are going to be parents. I said, ‘What?’ He said we were going to get this rabbit and that was fine. He just thought it would be really funny, so he posted it on Twitter and then Facebook,” Potts said.
“His dad was freaking out. He was a little upset thinking we were becoming parents because he said, ‘I thought you would tell me before you posted it on social media.’ Our phone was blowing up. I probably had over 100 texts and calls and our social media was blowing up. Derek just thought it was funny. That’s how he is.”
So why not show more of that in media interviews?
“When he is doing an interview, he doesn’t really talk. He has a personality but you don’t really see it. Behind closed doors he won’t shut up.”
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When Camryn Whitaker got a job as an assistant basketball coach at Kentucky, I thought she would be at UK a long, long time. She grew up a Kentucky fan in Harrison County and was thrilled to be back working so close to home. However, as part of the turmoil in the UK women’s basketball program, she resigned and has now been named head coach at Northern Kentucky University.
However, never doubt that she was true blue.
“Back when Walter McCarty was playing I can remember coming to a game and I met him and he was so nice. We had come to a women’s game and I met him up in the concourse. I was just a kid at the time,” she said. “I remember him. I remember Anthony Epps, Jamal Mashburn, Scott Padgett. All these guys, Travis Ford. Those were the ones I grew up watching and remember.”
Epps was the starting point guard on UK’s 1996 national championship team. Last season she helped coach his daughter, Makayla.
“One game I looked behind the bench and he was sitting right there. It was kind of surreal to be able to coach Makayla. She is such a fun person to be around and has a good personality. I loved coaching her. It was a fun group and they treated me very well and I know that is hard when you have coaching changes and players get close to a coach and build relationships and then you have somebody new come in,” Whitaker said. “They really respected that and I appreciate that from them.”
She also knew freshman Maci Morris of Bell County well before both got to UK.
“I recruited Maci before I got to Kentucky. I have known her for several years. I watched her play since she was in the eighth grade. She was already like family to me and I know her parents really well,” Whitaker said. “Maci is awesome.
“We share that county girl thing between Makayla, Maci and myself. It was fun to have those connections and fun to be back in Kentucky. I had always recruited Kentucky heavily because it is my home state. I take pride in that. Maci has been a tremendous asset to team. She is a tough player, hard worker and really can shoot the ball. I think she will just get better, too, in the years ahead.”
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Former Wildcat Kyle Wiltjer recently completed his Masters of Business Administration at Gonzaga. He’s hoping to hear his name called in the NBA draft or if not to find a way to make a team as a free agent. But he’s also got some business interests in mind whenever basketball does end for him.
“Sports agency, sports marketing or even opening up some kind of business are all possibilities,” Wiltjer said. “I think Fazoli’s should come to the west coast. It would be cool to open something new to an area. I have a bunch of ideas like that.
“There are a lot of things I have seen in Kentucky that I have not seen out there (in the west) and I know people would eat it up. I know my mom would not want to hear it, but you know how they have drive-thru liquor stores in Lexington. That could be a huge business opportunity out west. No one does that.
“It is sad but people are getting lazier and lazier. They want stuff accessible. If you just go to the drive-thru and want a bottle of wine and show an ID, they can throw it in a paper bag and be on your way. People like that.”