Casey Willis has loved the game of basketball for as long as he can remember. When he was a youth, his idol was Pistol Pete Maravich. He tried to pattern his game after that of the flamboyant Maravich, which gives you some idea of the kind of player Casey became. He loved the no look passes, behind the back dribbles and overall arsenal of basketball wizardry that defined the game of Pistol Pete.
When he was a 5th grader, Casey attended a basketball camp at the University of Tennessee. He had this to say about his time at the camp: “Instead of shooting, I spent all my time practicing my dribbling”. Fred Jenkins, an ex-Vol guard and coach at the camp had this to say about Casey: “My favorite camper. Very good and advanced player for his age. Excellent in all phases of the game”.
As his ball handling skills developed, Casey also found that he had exceptional leaping ability. Although his height topped out at around 6 feet, Casey became known around the area for his ability to dunk the basketball with relative ease and lots of style. The final piece of the hardcourt puzzle, the ability to shoot the basketball, came with hard work and Casey finished his high school career with a shooting percentage of 46%, not bad considering that many of his shots were from 3-point range.
Casey Willis got a late start in his basketball career at Fannin County High School. Two injuries, first a broken arm and then a broken ankle sidelined him during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He made up for lost time during his last two seasons, 1993-94 and 1994-95. As a junior, Casey was selected as the team Playmaker of the Year and then as a senior he was elected the FCHS boys basketball team Most Valuable Player.
Casey averaged 21 points, five assists and four steals in 1994-95. For his two-year high school career, he scored 675 points for an average of more than 15 points per game. He was selected to the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club Team of the Year in 1994-95 and was also selected as the club’s Player of the Year for that season.
Media praise for Casey’s performances at Fannin County could fill a large book. A typical description of his skills came in the News Observer after the Rebels defeated Hiwassee Dam, a team that entered the contest with a perfect 19-0 record. The Eagles returned to North Carolina with a 19-1 mark as Casey Willis and his teammates recorded an 84-64 victory in their regular season finale. The News Observer described the happenings thusly: “FCHS senior Casey Willis bounced off walls, the floor, and anything else near the basketball court as he slammed his way to a whopping 27 points. Willis’ two dunks were the most electrifying, energetic and powerful of his career. There was no doubt that Willis ruled the floor Friday night”.
While at Fannin County High, Casey also found time to win varsity letters in cross country and tennis.
Following his high school graduation, Casey accepted a full scholarship to continue his basketball career with the University of North Alabama Lions in Florence, Alabama. Casey played at North Alabama from 1995-2000 and earned four varsity letters. He was the team captain in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. He was selected as the team Playmaker of the Year in 1999-2000.
Casey’s dazzling Maravich-like play continued throughout his career at North Alabama. Another newspaper quote, this time from the Huntsville Times probably describes the play of Casey Willis in college best. The January 23, 1998 Times had this to say about Casey’s performance in a game played in a hostile environment at Alabama A&M: “Alabama A&M won the basketball game but Casey Willis won the fans. He beat the press with dazzling spin-move dribbles. He threw look-off passes, blind passes, behind-the-back passes. He nailed 3s. He skied for rebounds. He drove recklessly to the basket. He sprawled face-first on the floor for loose balls. Once he even flashed the ‘raise the roof’ signal, pushing his uplifted palms toward the ceiling. The crowd loved it. The raucous fans in the ‘Dawg Pound’, the A&M student section in the end zone behind the goal on the south end of the gym, were cheering and high-fiving his every move. Casey was The Man”.
Toward the end of his college career, Casey made a non-basketball move that continues to drive his life today. He describes himself as being ‘off the chain’ until his conversion to Christianity in 1999. He devoted the first 10 years or so of his life after college to his work with Campus Outreach first at Georgetown, Kentucky College and then at the University of Kentucky. In that endeavor he shared his faith with others through evangelism and discipleship in a higher education environment.
Casey also found time to get married and raise a family. He has been married for 11 years now. His wife is Erica and the Willis family now includes four children, one boy, Reed, and three girls, Emory Claire, Mary Etta and Maggie.
Casey Willis and his family make their home in Lexington, Kentucky where Casey is currently employed by UTG Timberland Acquisition, a faith-based company that buys and sells large tracts of timber land around the country. Casey points out that his company donates 10% of its earnings to a variety of worthy causes. Casey spends most of his work time travelling around the country looking for tracts to purchase.
Casey Willis is another outstanding Fannin County athlete who is also the personification of the term ‘solid citizen’. The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to call him a member.