Caleb Willis is a 188cm point guard that just completed a four year college career at Pepperdine. He played a total of 91 NCAA games starting 51 games. In his four years he averaged 3,7ppg, 2,5rpg and 2,2apg. In his senior year he played 15 games: 5.9ppg, 3.8rpg, 4.7apg, FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 51.4%. His highlights in his last season were started 14 of 15 games, then missed the final 15 contests. Led, or shared the team lead, in assists in 12 of his 15 games . Scored 12 points at Utah Valley (12/1), playing a career-high 41 minutes and adding a career-high-tying nine rebounds. Scored 11 points at Hawaii (12/8). Had five or more assists eight times, including a career-high-tying eight vs. Washington State (11/16) . Had six points and eight rebounds in his next-to-final game vs. Gonzaga (1/3). Recorded a career-high four steals at Cal State Northridge (11/9). He spoke to German Hoops about his future in basketball.
Caleb thanks for taking some time to talk to eurobasket.com. You just finished your college basketball career at Pepperdine. How excited are you to test the waters overseas and to start your professional basketball career?
I am really excited. Talking with friends like Taylor Darby and Alex Acker that are currently playing overseas, I’m looking forward to experiencing a new culture and playing basketball in a new place.
You are from Georgia. You met Kevin Garnett in a gym there at Pepperdine. It is always amazing to see players liking a player that plays another position. What made Garnett so appealing to you as a kid?
Kevin Garnett plays with an attitude and energy that I have never seen anyone play with. He just loves the game of basketball and his work ethic goes without question.
You played at Stockbridge high school in Georgia averaging 21ppg, 7rpg and 8apg. What were the main reasons for going to a school Pepperdine on the west coast?
The East Coast and West Coast style of play are very different. My mentor, Cloy Barnwell, was from California and wanted me to adopt the West Coast style of play as well. Also I felt that the basketball network was bigger in California than in Georgia.
Before going to Pepperdine, you took a year off and lost 50 pounds. Did you learn discipline in this year off?
I learned a lot of discipline my year off. I became a self -starter. I had to motivate myself and change things within my life. I changed what I ate and the style in which I ate. I also worked out at L.A. fitness twice a day while playing basketball and working a job.
As a freshman, you started the last six games of the season. How important was this phase of your first year and your development?
It was a difficult process my freshman season adjusting while coming off a year sitting out and then not playing most of the year. Those last six games helped me prepare for the next season and what I needed to do to get in the rotation.
You are a point guard. Would it be correct if one would call you a classic point guard?
I wouldn’t call myself a classic point guard but more of a well-rounded guard. I can post inside because I’m usually bigger than most guards at my position while still playing outside the paint.
What is a strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
My mid-range game. It is something I have worked hard at. I try to display my mid-range game within the context of the offense.
To what NBA player could you compare your game to?
Deron Williams. He is big guard that can really penetrate the defense effectively.
Your career really took off as a junior as you averaged 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and a team-best 3.7 assists in 29.4 minutes. What were you able to improve most in this season?
Junior year I moved to the shooting guard due to Lorne’s ACL injury. I improved my playmaking ability and being a well-rounded player because I was involved in making a lot of plays that year.
How tough was it missing the last 15 games of your senior season. Who was able to help you get through this time most?
It was one of the toughest times I have ever had to face in my life. My mother helped me get through it with her motivational encouragement. Two other people who helped me also were Coach Jason Hart, a ten year veteran, who played in the NBA, and Rick Fois, a graduate assistant for Pepperdine. Coach Jason Hart continued to share his knowledge about the game of basketball and life. Rick Fois worked with me day in and day out even after the decision was made that I wouldn’t be returning to play. I am blessed to have met two individuals with such great integrity and willingness to serve.
What was the most important thing that you were able to learn from head coach Marty Wilson?
The most important thing I learned was Defense. I learned how to defend the pick & roll by going under or over depending on the type of player I was guarding. College teams incorporate the pick & roll game more into their offense which will really help me at the next level. He taught me that in order to be a great player I will need to be able to play both ends of the floor effectively.
How disappointing was it never reaching the big show. What was your most memorable achievement with Pepperdine?
It was very disappointing not making it to the NCAA tournament. It was always a dream of mine to make it to the big show. My most memorable achievement was beating ASU my junior year. Beating a PAC-12 team on their home floor was a great feeling.
Who won a one on one in practice, you or Lorne Jackson?
I would have to say we were pretty evenly matched but I won more.
If you had to sell your game how would you describe yourself in a few sentences to make teams interested in you?
I am a competitive leader, who leads by example. I will do what is necessary to win whether that is defending the best player or accepting the pressure to take the last shot to win the game. I play with consistency and bring my competiveness every time I step on the court.
Chase Griffin and Robert Hollywood Turner that went to Pepperdine all played in Germany. What do you know about Germany and would you like to play here?
I don’t know much about Germany. All I know is that Pepperdine has an abroad program in Heidelberg and I always wanted to go. I would definitely like to play there.
How will a summer workout day look like for Caleb Willis?
My day would start with 6:30 a.m. lift at ProActive Sports Performance Lab with Ryan Capretta. Right after that I will have a court workout from 8 a.m.-10a.m. with my trainer A.J. Then I would rest until I have a game in the Drew League or attend an open run around the Los Angeles area or have another court workout.
What was the most crazy shot that you made for Pepperdine that went in?
My 35 foot shot against Arizona State University with the shot clock winding down. It took the life out of the fans in the building.
What were the most free throws that you made in a row?
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Great Gatsby
Thanks Caleb for the chat.