Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Students at the Edmonson County 5/6 Center kicked off their pre K-PREP testing activities with a shot of big blue today as former Kentucky Wildcat basketball players Derek Willis and Isaac Humphries stopped by to share their stories of motivation and success with the students.
Both former standouts addressed the lively crowd and discussed what it means to work hard, be respectful, avoid bullying, and stick to your dreams. They each shared stories of how they overcame adversity to reach success in college basketball.
Students lined up for their chance to have pictures and basketballs signed by the duo, and each student won a basketball trading card thanks to 6th grader, Brandon Carroll. The group said they'd give each student a card if someone from the crowd could hit two shots. Principal Alan Talley called on Brandon to take the shots and he nailed a side jumper then one from around the free throw line as the students went wild.
We had a chance to speak to the players after the assembly. Both players discussed how they've enjoyed traveling around the state, speaking to young people.
"This is a good opportunity for guys like us to give back to the community," said Humphries. "It really means something to know that we're affecting young people's lives."
Derek Willis spoke about how much he's enjoyed the tours. "I know kids hear lots of motivational speakers theses days but they usually listen to ballplayers a little more," he said. "I'm proud to be in that role and enjoy getting this message across."
Principal Talley was very pleased with the event. "We want to thank the Vincent Group in Smiths Grove for sponsoring this tour," he said. "This is a great event and we're so happy this could happen here. We also couldn't do it without our local PTO who also made this happen. After hearing Derek and Isaac, I think our students saw some similarities in their own lives. These guys appear as superstars to so many, but hopefully our kids saw that they're not that much different than them."
We asked both players about their future plans after UK basketball.
"I'm going to LA with my agent and have some workouts with some NBA teams," Humphries said. "I'll also explore some overseas options, too."
Willis also has hired an agent. "I'm really working hard right now," he said. "I'm just focusing on all possibilities to play professionally."