November 02, 2013
Derek Willis has nearly lit Rupp Arena on fire through Kentucky's Blue-White Scrimmage and its exhibition win over Transylvania, scoring a combined 27 points on the back of 7 of 9 three-point shooting.
The offensive onslaught has led to strong buzz about Willis forcing his way into the rotation.
But his defense -- at least, the defense he played against Transy -- could jeopardize that.
"Derek gave up more than he scored," coach John Calipari said of Willis, who scored six points. "You can't be in the game."
Let's take a look at some of the individual defensive lapses.
Play One: Leaving the Corner Three Open
One of Calipari's biggest no-no's is leaving the corner three open. Here we watch Transy run a screen above the arc, and on the opposite side of Willis (bottom of the screen). As the guard tries to get the edge, Willis -- well, Willis doesn't really do anything. He's kinda-sorta helping contain the drive, but his man is also drifting further and further toward the corner, and away from him.
Watching the GIF, you see Willis stay in exactly the same spot as the entire play unfolds. Just can't do that. He has to keep the proper distance between his man and being able to help on the drive.
Play Two: Leaving the Perimeter Unnecessarily
On this one, watch Willis (top of the screen) follow the ball and end up way out of position. As Transy drives the ball on the opposite side of the paint, three players -- Randle, Harrison and Cauley-Stein -- are all around the basket to corral and deter the driver. He pitches to another player on the baseline, who wiggles his way under the basket.
Willis, for some reason, decides that his three huge teammates are not enough and starts to dip down into the paint to help. That leaves his man wide open, and when the ball swings to him, Jarrod Polson has to scramble to cover for Willis. Then, nobody is left to cover for Polson.
Losing Sight of His Man
On this third play, Willis (bottom of the screen) gets caught losing track of his man momentarily. He's guarding his man on the perimeter, in the corner, but gets stuck paying too much attention to a rolling screener coming his way (despite Randle being in front of him).
As Willis hovers near the edge of the paint, his man takes off around the arc. Willis recognizes the movement a beat too late; he's further hampered by a screen that he runs directly into. He makes up enough ground to force a long three, but against a crisper, taller opponent, falling that far behind on a play is crucial.
Play Four: Overcompensation
Willis was struggling defending the arc for most of the defensive possessions he was involved in. Calipari was on him about it, too, throughout the game. Which led to Willis (top of the screen) over-playing his position at times and getting caught doing so -- like on this one, where he seemingly tried to beat his man through the screen, leading to a backdoor cut that didn't quite materialize but was threatening enough.
Ultimately,these defensive failings are an okay kind. They're more freshmen mistakes -- and remember, Calipari only recently started teaching defense -- than anything else. Does Willis have some serious improvement to do on that end to uphold his chance of more playing time? Yes. His footwork, timing, and most importantly, attentiveness need to be better.
But these are the kinds of mistakes you can fix. They aren't issues of physical deficiencies. Still, they need to be remedied, or else the impact of his hot shooting will be minimized.