Passing the baton
Watson relays message through leadership skills
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 23:03
CLEVELAND – With 5.4 seconds left in the game, senior guard Tony Watson received an inbound pass and drove the length of the floor to get a quick basket before time expired.
However, as the buzzer sounded, Watson looked up at the scoreboard and realized the game was over and his Bulls (12-20, 7-9 Mid-American Conference) had fallen short of an upset over Kent State (22-8, 9-7 MAC).
Although a MAC Championship and a berth into the NCAA Tournament would have been more fitting for Watson, to me, this was an example of the way Watson approached this season.
Throughout the season, Watson was asked to accept many different roles. Whether it was to come off the bench and get the game under control or to play an outstanding number of minutes, he did so, staying humble and taking an unselfish approach to the situation.
According to Bulls’ head coach Reggie Witherspoon, Watson’s unselfishness and contributions were helpful in keeping the Bulls in close games against tough conference opponents.
“He was happy with whatever we asked him to do,” Witherspoon said. “We knew it’d be tough to bring him out, so we tried to bring him off the bench. He did that eagerly [and] willingly. And then when we asked him to start, he did that, and we said: ‘We might not be able to get you out.’ He was fine with that. He didn’t just do it; he did a real nice job with it. He told me he was going to shoot more; he did that. He was really big for our team.”
And from my experience, being around practice and seeing his competitiveness, it was clear he was a true leader.
Each day at practice, he would prepare himself for games knowing he was coming off the bench. He would stick around for extra foul shots or push the other guards to hit as many threes as him, keeping score to make them beat him.
And then he was called upon to adapt to another situation – when an unfortunate injury occurred to junior guard Jarod Oldham early in the season. This is when Watson went from being a perimeter shooter to becoming the “iron man” of an inexperienced Bulls team.
In 24 of the Bulls’ 29 games this season, Watson has played 30 minutes or more. In nine of those games, he’s played 40 minutes or more – five of which were consecutive, averaging 11 points, three assists and two rebounds per game.
In February, he had a stretch of seven games in which he shot 58.3 percent from beyond the arc, landing him second in the MAC in three-point field goals made per game (2.6).
There were times during the season when Watson was a streaky shooter, but he would hit the one shot that would keep the Bulls’ games close and even became a fan favorite.
Talk about making the most of his senior season.
But what was most impressive was his patience with the development of guard Jarryn Skeete – who at the beginning of the season looked as though he might redshirt. Watson took him under his wing and helped Skeete emerge as the future star of the Bulls’ offense.
Skeete averaged 10.2 points per game in 16 conference matchups and became the first freshman at UB to total 10 or more assists in a game since the 2006-07 season.
Watson left a mark on a young team that needed guidance and direction. He laid the foundation for what to look forward to in the future of the Bulls’ program.
With that final shot against Kent State, Watson passed the baton to his younger comrades. They now must become the leaders. They learned from one of the best.