The emergence of Derek Willis has been one of the best stories of the 2015-16 Kentucky Wildcats, which unfortunately means his loss is affecting UK in more ways than you may realize.
Willis was already dealing with several injuries going into last Saturday's game at Texas A&M, and he ended up suffering a serious ankle injury on top of it during the overtime loss to he Aggies. He missed Monday's win over Alabama and was seen in a walking boot on the sideline before the game. Willis was also spotted on crutches before the Wildcats’ practice Monday afternoon, but it looks like he's making some progress from this latest injury.
During his Friday meeting with the media, head coach John Calipari didn’t have an update on Willis’ ankle, but Willis did walk by the presser in a walking boot with no crutches. That would seem to indicate he could return in the near future, though it's probably not realistic to think he'll play Saturday at Vanderbilt.
That's a big loss for Kentucky, and Rob Dauster of NBC Sports did a great piece on why that is. With Willis becoming a lights-out three-point shooter (hit 15 of last 24 threes before A&M game), defenders are now forced to choose between taking away Willis’ jumper and helping on drives from Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and others.
That's helped open up UK's offense more and keep teams from clogging the lane and making UK beat them with jumpers.
It’s different with Willis on the floor. Whether or not he’s actually making threes, it’s the threat of the shot that makes the difference. "You have to really decide how you want to guard those ball-screens," one SEC coach told NBCSports.com. "His shooting makes them much harder to guard."
Be sure to read the entire piece, then proceed to pray that Willis is at least back for the NCAA Tournament.