GIDEL: Just Plain Gifted

There's been some talented dual sport athletes that have flirted with the idea of becoming the next Charlie Ward, Julius Peppers or Tony Gonzalez, in playing both sports in college. None, however, might be more committed to proving he can do it at Kentucky, than arriving freshmen LaShun Watson.

LaShun Watson is gifted.

And the UK football signee is ready to prove it.

"I know I can do it," Watson said on playing basketball and football in college. "I'm not saying it won't be hard, because I know it will be - too many people have told me that already. I'm just saying, the way I prepare and the way I approach competition, I know I can do it."

"I might go out for track too," Watson said. "I might run out there, you never know."

Competition is something Watson has been exposed to since his inception into high school basketball. Playing the point forward position for one of the best AAU programs in the southeast in the Atlanta Celtics, Watson was humbled as a player the past two summers and has dedicated himself to becoming a better athlete.

"I'm 6'5 and a ½," Watson said. "I'm not the biggest guy on the court, so I knew I had to get better 'hops.' I started working on my jumping ability and it not only helped me become a better rebounder, but on the football field, I became a much more unstoppable receiver.

The playmaking wide receiver has increased his vertical jump to 41 inches of late and is eyeing a repeat state championship in the Georgia Double AA state high jump.

"I'm going to be a big receiver in college and big receivers have to go up and get the ball," Watson said. "I gotta work on some things, but when that ball is in the air - I'm gonna go get it."

"I don't care who's throwing it either," Watson exclaimed. "Whoever ... they throw it up - and I go get it."

The Greenville (Ga.) native did just that his senior season. Following up a 741 yard, 11 touchdown performance as a junior with a 835 yard, 8 touchdown performance as a senior. His abilities landed him an offer from SEC Champion Auburn and interest from Florida State, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.

"A lot of schools were calling and continued to call," Watson explained. "I just like what I see at Kentucky. They've got a bunch of receivers leaving and I think I'm gonna get a chance to start right away, run the show. Coach Phillips and Coach Brooks have been there from the beginning. Even when I wasn't thinking about playing football. They stayed with me. I liked that alot. It felt like home."

And of course - the opportunity to play both sports at UK, which was promised by Joker Phillips on his official visit - was a huge lure.

"Coach (Tubby) Smith was great about it," Watson said. "Tubby said he liked having football players playing basketball. I think I can help them this year. They've been struggling a little bit. I think my athleticism would really help, plus I'm not afraid to rebound as a guard. I watch like every game I can."

He averaged around 20 points and 11 rebounds on the basketball court as a junior and this year he's exploded for 24 points and a sparkling 14 rebound average.

"I wanted to make sure I averaged a double-double again," Watson chuckled. "Things are going good with basketball. I've been working on my shot, trying to get better. I've been hitting my threes alot more this year and that was my weakest part of my game."

Watson's acceptance of the Wildcats football scholarship from Brooks and Co. meant he turned down basketball offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and UAB.

"There was a lot more schools offering for basketball, but Kentucky was the only one that said I could come in and play both sports as a freshmen," Watson recalled. "I would have had to be on football scholarship to do that. If I played basketball, I would have had to wait until my junior year, so that's part of the reason."

"When I came up there for my visit, I knew three guys already from LaGrange," the Georgia native explained. "They seem really cool and I felt like I was already home. I told myself that this is the spot for me. I love the game, and I don't want to miss a year, so early playing time was important for me. I wanted to play early, but if the coaches thought I wasn't ready I would've waited. The Kentucky coaches, they believe I'm ready."

Schools across the South agreed with the UK coaching staff, including FSU assistant coaches, whom came to watch Watson. They felt a school that could fine tune his skills and give him a chance to develop on the field, would be getting an NFL type receiver.

"There are a lot more 6-5 guards in basketball than 6-5 receivers," Watson added. "All the bigger football schools told me that I just needed experience. I just wanted a good program and a good coach to help me get to the next level. I needed a coach to help me work to improve my game."

Joker Phillips appears to be the man up to that challenge.

"I like T.O. he's a lot like me," Watson said in reference to his game. "If someone puts him down, he'll fight back and smack him in the face. Coach Phillips, the offensive coordinator and receivers coach told me that's what he liked about me."

Georgia All-State in basketball, all-state in football and a AA state champion in the high jump in the Peach State, is there truly anything he doesn't do subpar?

"I don't know," Watson concluded. "I guess you could say I'm gifted."


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