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Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 48 – Kevin Willis

This is the third in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 48 – Kevin Willis
Center, 1981-84, Detroit

The skinny: In his three years at MSU, Willis was a terrific rebounder, though somewhat raw offensively, having only played two seasons at Detroit Pershing at one at Jackson Community College.

Kevin Willis averaged 13 points and nearly 10 rebounds as a junior at MSU in 1983. But no one saw a two-decade NBA career ahead. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Willis’ best season with the Spartans came in 1982-83, his junior year, when he averaged 13.3 points and 9.6 rebounds, and twice recorded 20-rebound games. Goran Suton is the only MSU player to accomplish the feat since. Willis was at his best in Big Ten play that year, putting up 14.3 points and a league-best 10.2 rebounds per game. That 1983 team also featured a young backcourt with freshman Scott Skiles and sophomore Sam Vincent.

Why he’s in the top 50: If this were a countdown of the best basketball players who’ve played at MSU, Willis would be about 30 spots higher. But his NBA career, which spanned 1984-2007 after being a first-round selection of the Atlanta Hawks, doesn’t help him here. Still, for two of his three seasons at MSU, he was a force on the glass and put up double figures in points for NIT-caliber teams.

Previously …
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

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4 Responses to Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 48 – Kevin Willis

  1. avatar steveu says:

    Willis’s NBA longevity was indeed amazing. I think a lot of it was he took very good care of his body, so even when he was past 40, he was still a honed, physical force with some skills and mobility. I don’t think we’ll see too many more 44 year old NBA players.

  2. avatar Izzo4Prez says:

    I’d like to know why it is that Willis never comes back for anything. I have a feeling that maybe he has some bad feelings toward the school. He’s never at any games or alumni functions (that I know of).

    • avatar jerseyjohn says:

      he did come back for the jud tribute game in 1995. i know from talking to his former teammates and coackes. who i won’t name here, that he had a bad attitude in school and really dogged it in practices to get out of running. same was true of patrick ford in this era.

  3. avatar Chris says:

    I believe Willis and a serious ankle sprain his senior season, as did Vincent. Thus another team that could have been a serious tourney team, hampered by injuries. Four of these starters spent time in the NBA. Willis, Vincent, Skiles, and Ken Johnson. The fifth starter, Ben Tower, played internationally for quite a while also. Lot of talent that year.

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