CHANCE TO SAY GOODBYE TO RAY
BASKETBALL: He has thrilled thousands of QBL fans around Queensland with his step-away triples, spectacular dunks and blistering ankle-snapping drives to the hoop.
Gladstone Port City Power dynamo Ray Willis will play his final game for the club against Cairns Marlins tomorrow from 2.30pm at Kev Broome Stadium.
Port City Power have won just five games and had 11 losses, but Willis has had yet another outstanding season in which he has averaged 29.06ppg in 16 games and is touted as one of the favourites to win the QBL Most Valuable Player for 2017.
FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
In a candid interview with the Observer, 6'6ft guard Willis explained the reasons why he is leaving the club.
"Why? Well I just gotta keep moving," Willis, 27, said.
"I feel like I've done everything I can do here and there's nothing left for me to do here outside of I was here just to solely win a championships.
"I feel like it's time for me to branch off and explore new options and opportunities."
When asked what those options are, Willis said he was unsure - whether to have a crack at NBL level or head back home to the US.
"Man, I honestly right now I don't know what life has in store because life at this time after the QBL season I didn't play what would have been a full season," Willis said.
"This is the off-season for me at least.
"So I'm getting back to just the basketball world and playing around.
"Hopefully I'm in the situation where I will feel more of an asset to not just the basketball arena, but to be able to express who I am in the community through basketball and volunteer services."
Willis joined the Power at the start of the 2015 season after he played college basketball for the University of Oklahoma and North Carolina Central University before professional stints in Israel, Finland and Sweden.
Willis played for Maccabi Be'er Ya'akov in the Israeli National League where he played six games and averaged 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
He left for Australia in November 2014 to commence his new career at Port City Power.
Willis made a brilliant impact at his new club where he led the Power to a heart-breaking semi-final loss to Brisbane Capitals.
Willis finished 2015 with an average of 21.4ppg before he was appointed captain for the 2016 season.
He stepped up further and averaged 24.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season in which the Power missed the play-offs.
While there are no ill feelings between Willis and the Power, the champion guard admitted he was concerned with the sport in the region.
"I told our president here 'this is not my world...the world I'm from it is basketball'," Willis explained.
He highlighted basketball needs people like Willis to help explain what it takes to help youngsters elevate their games and therefore get themselves 'out there' beyond Gladstone.
Otherwise, as Willis explains, the youngsters do not know any better.
"So when you go to the smaller towns, you can see like the kids tell you what they want to to do A, B and C and this is like I just came from there," Willis said.
"I know how to get there and what we're doing right now is not going to get us there.
"Our thoughts and our words, they are not matching our deeds and there is no way that we are going to reach our ambitions.
"The persons that we aspire to be, we are going to fall short, not because we don't want to or we're not working hard, but you just don't know if you never been and your aim is not to go."
Willis was referring to young players having the drive to try out to play basketball in America and elsewhere and what it's like to work with an agent.
"I just felt like being here is limited...boxed in," Willis said.
Let's be fair, Willis is not having a dig at McDonalds Gladstone Port City Power, its coaches at senior and junior level, the many volunteers who help in week-in and out and most importantly his Power team-mates.
When the final few seconds of tomorrow's match strike past, Willis said it will be hard to fathom
"It still hasn't really hit me because that moment isn't here yet because I'm still here," he said.
"So a lot of times for me that the moment will really hit me is when I'm flying in and out of the city.
"It's hard because I have so many memories here and in terms of how well I have played basketball, it correlates how I've grown as a person."
Willis just wants to convey his message and give advice to the many talented basketball players Gladstone and Queensland has whereby the biggest risk is not taking any risk at all.