Diego Willis (193-G-99) is a 21 year old 193cm guard that was born in Hermosillo, Mexico. He played two years in Spain with Canarias Basketball Academy. He then played at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NCAA) from 2018-2021 playing 77 NCAA games. He was able to improve hiss coring average each season and last season averaged 5.9ppg, 3.3rpg, FGP: 47.2%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 79.5%. He has been a member of the Mexican national team since 2017 and won a Bronze medal at the FIBA AmeriCup in 2017 and also played at the FIBA World Cup 2019 Qualifiers, World University Games in Napoli (Italy) in 2019 and at the Panamerican Games in Lima (Peru) -in 2019. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the 2021 Olympic qualifying tournament in Split, Croatia.
Diego thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
Thanks for having me, I feel really good where I am at at this moment, I believe I have been maturing and my game has been showing that. Basketball life is awesome. I am living my dream
Before we talk about basketball I have to ask you how you experienced COVID-19 in the last year. What was the most challenging thing that you witnessed in this time?
Well as you said from the past year to now , times have been really challenging and I have been blessed in these times because a lot of people and friends have lost loved ones and I have been fortunate that my family is doing well and we are all healthy.
With everything you have seen during COVID-19 off the court, how do you feel has it made you stronger as a man?
It has helped me a lot to become a man And understanding that life is a gift and everything can change in one moment. Basketball challenges have been ongoing since last year but that’s the only thing I have worried about so I can say I’m blessed.
You are with the Mexican national team playing in the Olympic qualifying tournament against Germany and Russia. How exciting is it being able to play for the ticket for the 2021 Olympics?
It’s an honor to play for your country and try to make history in Mexican basketball. I’m really excited to experience this at a young age and the team really believes we are going to qualify
Talk a little about the Mexican national team. What can we await from the squad in this tournament?
We have a group of players that know how to play the game and we have a mix of experienced and young guys that makes us dangerous to any team . We believe in our strengths and we feel like Mexico is going to be in the Olympics
Germany played a horrible 2019 World Cup, but just recently won the Hamburg Cup despite not having many of their NBA players. How good is the German team from your perspective?
They are a great team and we have been doing the scouting with the coaches . And we know what they are going to throw at us and we are ready for it and we know we have to execute the game plan and play with no fear
How exciting is it playing against two other young players Isaac Bonga and Moritz Wagner. Especially Bonga should be somebody your really looking forward to matching up against at the guard position?
Yes I have actually played in a tournament that Bonga played in and it was the ANGT in Kaunas. We didn’t compete against each other but it’s a matchup I’m looking forward to
How big is Juan Toscano-Anderson as a role model for young Mexicans. He had to pay his dues 4 years in Mexico before making the NBA with the Golden State Warriors.
Juan is a great guy. We have had conversations when he was playing in Mexico and when he got to the NBA and nothing has changed . That shows you how he manages himself and he paved the way along with others for Mexicans to try to get to the NBA
What is it like being teammates with the very experienced great point guard Paul Stoll? Is he like a mentor for you on and off the court?
I have been learning a lot from him, and he is a great player and a great person , he understands the game on a different level and that’s something I am learning day by day.
Let’s talk a little about your game. You’re a 193cm guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player, who would best fit the description?
I always loved how Jason Kidd played. He was a great passer but was always a scoring threat. I am working on my skills to become something like that in the future
You’re a guard that can score and fill the stat sheet as well as hit the long range shots. What would you say is your biggest strength on the court?
I am a team first guy but I also take pride in my ability to score. I like the pick and roll game that fiba is and I am working on it a lot so it can become one of my strengths but as of now I believe my shot making ability and my passing
How much pride do you take in playing defense? What kind of defender are you now and what kind of defender do you want to become?
I take a lot of pride on guarding my man and helping my teammates. It’s something that coaches are always looking for so I always make sure I give my 100% on both ends
On what area’s of your game are you working on most now so you can continue to grow as a player in the next years?
You played two years at Canarias Basketball Academy (Spain-1 Div.). What kind of an experience was it a Mexican player and playing in Spain?
It was awesome, I learned a lot from great coaches and great players. Rob Orellana developed me not only as a basketball player but also as a human being, its something I’m always grateful for. And it was a super intense basketball academy
Did you ever think of the option of having remained in Europe and tried the pro route? What was the deciding factor that made you want to play in the NCAA?
Something I thought a lot of , I believed my game is made for FIBA basketball a little more than it is for college, nevertheless, my family and I took the decision to go to the US and work on my university degree. Coming out of high school I was really close to go the European route
What positives have you gained from your three years at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NCAA) and how do you feel did your game grow there?
I believed my game developed in many ways but the one that mostly did it for me was the defense.
You had some good games against Wagner and Albany. If you look back at your three years at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NCAA) what do you feel was your fondest memory there
It would my first points for sure. My siblings were there and it was a special moment because they only have seen me through TV mostly. But that game they were there
Who won a one on one in practice you or Antwuan Butler?
You played a World Cup qualifying game in 2018 against the United States in 2018. There were some NBA players on that roster. What memories do you have of that game and what American player do you remember stood out most then?
It was a great moment. Beating the US in Mexico cCty and also scoring my first points with the national team all in the same night it was special.
Who is the best player that you have played against so far in your young career that reached the NBA?
The best player I played against it would be Deandre Ayton, I played against him in pickup games and he is a monster.
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?
Lebron, MJ, Kareem, Magic and Bird
What is your personal opinion of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
LBJ is more complete
What was the last movie that you watched?
Thanks Diego for the chat.