Shooting into an ocean
Senior guard’s leadership has ripple effect on men’s basketball team
Tony Watson (above, shooting) was awarded Mid-American Conference East Co-Player of the Week. His leadership and willingness to step up in clutch situations have the Bulls feeling good about the rest of the season. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
There are two things an onlooker notices from senior guard Tony Watson during shooting drills at the end of the men's basketball team's practice:
He talks to the ball whenever he shoots. And he doesn't miss.
"Come on, 1!" Watson yells, referring to his jersey number in the third person. "Get up! Get in there!"
Swish. Swish. Swish.
Watson was named the Mid-American Conference Co-Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 27.5 points per game in his team's two victories last week.
"It's a great feeling," Watson said. "It's something that every player doesn't really work toward, but once you do get it, your hard work is really paying off. You've always got to give the credit back to your teammates."
Watson scored a career-high 24 points on Wednesday in a win against Toledo, and then topped his performance, scoring 31 on Saturday against Miami (Ohio). He shot 12 for 18 from three-point land in the two games.
"We always knew Tony had this in him," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "He's a terrific player. He understands the game. When you have someone who can shoot the ball as good as he [can], when they keep getting good looks, eventually, they're going to knock them down."
Watson is finding his rhythm at the right time, as this is his last year in a UB uniform. But hot shooting from the perimeter isn't the only thing Watson has been contributing to this young Bulls team.
As one of the team's two seniors, he feels it is his responsibility to take on the leadership role.
"Each team, the leadership comes from within and it's important for me to step up as a leader and guide these younger guys and set a good example," Watson said. "I'm just pushing my guys as hard as I can for my last go-around."
The team has responded and is currently on a three-game win streak as the conference schedule dwindles. The Bulls have four MAC games before the conference tournament.
"All the great players have that within them, where they are competitive in nature and have drive to succeed, and he definitely has that," said sophomore forward Will Regan, one of Watson's best friends. "He's a great leader and he's showing it through example right now."
After junior guard Jarod Oldham went down in practice in December with a wrist injury, the team has relied heavily on freshman point guard Jarryn Skeete for minutes. Skeete has taken a lot from the veteran Watson.
"I think his leadership is rubbing off on me," Skeete said. "He's setting the bar at a certain level and I've got to get to that level in order for us to be successful. He's an easy assist; when he's open, you give it to him, run back and it's good. In that way, too, it's been really helpful."
Watson is the same driven person off the court that he is on the court. This past summer, he interned for UB Athletics, working with external affairs. Watson spent his time in marketing, helping develop relationships between athletes and students.
His first option after graduation is to play professional basketball overseas, but he is happy to have other options as a marketing major.
For now, he'll keep his focus on the Bulls' remaining games this season, and he hopes to continue his hot streak.
"The hoop feels like it's as big as the ocean right now," Watson said. "Every time I let the ball go, it feels pretty good."
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