Just days before she was set to sign with the University of Maryland, senior wing Blair Watson once again showed just why she’s among the nation’s foremost talents. One of the headliner’s in Maryland’s No. 1-ranked 2016 class, the 6-foot Watson drained triple after triple in New York City’s annual Rose Classic, which featured some of the country’s most renowned AAU teams. The New York native Watson, who suited up for Adidas-based New Jersey Panthers, ended up winning tournament MVP, helping her squad to a championship.
“It was just crazy; I was like in a zone up there,” said Watson, who committed to Maryland in October 2014. “I told my senior teammates going in, ‘This is our last time together, so let’s just go up there and have some fun and make the most of it.’ And that’s what we did. I can’t even tell you how many points I scored; I was just sort of feeling it and the ball was going in (laughs). I have no clue what was going through my head; I was just letting it fly.
“But it definitely was pretty special just winning tournament MVP and having my name on that trophy alongside [current Terps’ standout] Kiah Gillespie. She won the MVP up here too, so to have my name next to hers was special.”
Soon after the early November event, Watson received a text from Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. Evidently Frese’s prized recruit had conveniently forgotten to let her future coach know she’d won MVP.
“My team was all celebrating, and I saw her text like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?????’” Watson said, laughing. “But Coach Frese is great; we have a great relationship. I usually talk to her every week just about anything. She’s mainly telling me just to keep getting As and Bs in the classroom and to keep doing what I’m doing on the court.”
On Nov. 11, Watson will officially become a Terp more than a year after committing. The Nutley (N.J.) product had offers from the likes of LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Rutgers, Penn State and others, but committed to Maryland early thanks to Frese’s personal overtures and her standout initial visit to College Park, Md., in October 2014.
She hasn’t wavered for a second since.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic. Everyone in my house could not be more excited for this moment to finally get here, when I can finally say I’m officially a Terp,” Watson said. “It’s seemed like forever since I committed, so I’m just so excited to sign. And I know everyone else in this class is excited too. We’ve all been posting things on Instagram and just being like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s finally here.’”
Joining Watson in this year’s class will be five-star point guard Destiny Slocum (Idaho), five-star forward Jenna Staiti (Georgia), five-star wing Kaila Charles (Maryland), five-star forward Stephanie Jones (Maryland) and three-star guard Sarah Myers (Georgia). Watson said all six girls are in close contact and are eager to join the Terps’ nationally-renowned program.
“We have our own group chat and we touch base just to see how we’re all doing. We’re all really excited to play with each other,” Watson said. “We all had our official visit together on Sept. 10, and got to know each other more then. We were like, ‘Wow, this is crazy, this class has so much potential.’ We honestly cannot wait to come in there, play with each other and help the program win a championship. It’s a great group, and so many great, talented players.”
Speaking of that official, it was Watson’s first look at the current Terps in quite some time. Since she’s from New York, she hadn’t had a chance to connect with the squad or see them in action.
“The official was amazing. We saw a football game and got a chance to go on the field, which was awesome. Then we watched practice, and the atmosphere in the gym was outstanding,” Watson said. “Just how supportive the players are of each other and the way they bring each other up, it’s great. Seeing their work ethic and how they push each other, but how they are also so encouraging, it’s really great to see. I can tell why Maryland is such a great program. Everyone works to raise each other’s level of play. And the coaches there, they’re phenomenal. Coach Frese, Coach [Bett] Shelby, Coach [Bryce] McKey, it’s a great group.”
Watson predicted this year’s Terps have a chance to make a Final Four run. She won’t be able to see too many games in person, but plans to attend the UMD-UConn game since it’s not too far from her home.
But first thing’s first. Watson has to sign that Letter of Intent Nov. 11 and then continue preparing for her final season at Nutley.
“We’re having a ceremony at our school, and me and one other kid is signing. It’ll be fun; my family will come up to support me and then we’ll have a little party at my house,” Watson said.
“And then it’s back to work,” she said. “I’d say my shot is pretty OK right now (laughs). But I do want to improve on it; it can always get better. Then I’d say I’m seeing the floor pretty well and my defense is pretty good too. But I want to keep improving my shooting percentage, and also my finishing; driving; and ball-handling. I have a year to work on all that, so my goal is to keep getting better so I’m ready for Maryland.”