Kentucky senior forward Derek Willis was named to the Southeastern Conference’s Men’s Basketball Community Service team on Thursday. Willis is UK’s representative on the 14-man team that honors players’ exemplary service to their communities.
This marks the 19th year for the SEC Community Service Team for men’s basketball. All 21 league-sponsored sports have had a Community Service Team since 2004. The team honors student-athletes beyond the field for their on-going efforts in the community.
Willis has been a mainstay in the community since his arrival on campus in 2013. He spent countless hours serving in any capacity he can.
A regular visitor at the UK Children’s Hospital, he befriended, Zack. Willis and Zack, a Progeria (a progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly), have bonded at the hospital, at Progeria events, at games and more.
Willis has delivered gifts, served dinner and sang Christmas carols to families in the Lexington community every holiday season in his four years at Kentucky. He is an annual participant in UK’s Back Pack Program with God’s Pantry to help pack and distribute lunches to students across the city. During the God’s Pantry delivery over the years, he has played kickball and other activities with students.
Other initiatives he’s been a part of include: serving Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army, volunteering at the Alonzo Mourning basketball camp, UK Athletics blanket project for the UK Children’s Hospital, hospital visits at the Final Four in Indianapolis in 2015 and the Samaritan’s Feet experience at the Bahamas in 2014.
UK’s senior from Mt. Washington, Kentucky, is having the most productive season of his career during his final campaign. He’s averaging 6.9 points and a career-high 4.9 rebounds per game.