Clovis senior Bud Willis is known for his passing more than his scoring. File photo.
By Rick White
Slick-passing Clovis senior point guard Bud Willis is following in the footsteps of his coach and mentor.
Willis, a three-year letterwinner for the Wildcats under coach J.D. Isler, signed a national letter of intent Tuesday to play college basketball at New Mexico Junior College.
Isler, who played and coached at the two-year school in Hobbs, has been one of Willis’ biggest supporters since their paths crossed at Marshall Junior High four years ago.
“I’ve always felt his skills are good enough to play at the next level,” Isler said. “He just needs to get physically stronger.”
Willis, whose no-look passes caught opponents and sometimes even teammates off guard, averaged 10.5 points, 7.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds a game while helping Clovis to a 21-7 record.
He scored a career-high 27 points in a win at Hobbs.
Isler said he’s confident the slightly 6-foot-2 Willis can withstand the rigors of playing in one of the top junior-college conferences in the country.
“He shoots it well enough that people can’t just play him for the pass or play him for the drive,” Isler said. “The biggest thing has been he’s matured. From his junior to senior year he grew up and really ran the team well.”
Willis, who also drew interest from New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell and Cochise Junior College in Arizona, said he’s hoping to use junior college as a springboard to a Division II school or even possibly a Division I program.
“I think I can play at the next level,” Willis said. “By going to a junior college, I can work on my weaknesses and get stronger.”
On his recruiting visit, Willis scrimmaged with the team.
“I was really nervous at first,” Willis said. “But once I settled down I felt I played pretty well.”
The Thunderbirds finished 17-13 in 2003-04 under fifth-year coach Jeff McCool.
Isler has been more than a coach, Willis said. “He’s been like a father to me. I’m really thankful for that.
“He taught me to do the right thing on and off the court.”
Willis is the third player under Isler to sign to play college basketball.
McCool could not be reached for comment.