"I'm trying to get used to this southern heat. Man, it's killing me," said Watson, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior forward from Murray-Wright High School in Detroit and Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. "We just ran the (length of the) football field 16 times, just trying to get in shape so we can have a successful season.
"Coming from Detroit, when it gets to 90 degrees, we don't get outside," Watson smiled and said. "It's killing me down here. It's killing me. Twenty years of my life, coming from up north to down south is a big transition."
Luckily for Watson, basketball is played during cold weather months and indoors. But it's the preparation for the upcoming season that's been brutal so far.
There have been other transitions, and he knows the season coming up will be a grind.
"Just getting more physical, getting stronger. This is the SEC. It's a high level of basketball. I think it's the best conference in the country. So I'm trying to get better at everything."
The personable Watson thinks big when he talks about how he wants to play and who he might emulate. There's a confidence there that will be welcomed on the court for the Rebels.
"I look at myself in this offense as the hybrid kind of guy," said Watson, who earned All-America honors after leading Mott to the NJCAA Division II National Championship while also being named to the All-Tournament team. "We want to get up and down and have a fast-paced game, like the (Phoenix) Suns. I look at myself as the Shawn Marion (6-7 forward for the Suns) of the group, the get-up-and-down guy. I might have to go check Tim Duncan (Spurs) one night and Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) the next night. I look at myself as the guy who might fit in and just help out the team in that aspect."
Watson takes care of business on both ends of the court. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in his conference last season while recording 12.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.4 blocks and 2.8 steals per game. He had eight double-doubles.
He prides himself on defense, and part of that is because of where he comes from.
"Being from Flint and Detroit, there's a big basketball tradition up there. It's a pride thing for me. I don't like getting scored on. I want to bring the same thing here."
But he wants to be the ultimate team guy, too, and he already talks in those terms.
"Look at what these guys did last year, winning the SEC West," said Watson, who in one game narrowly missed a triple-double with 19 points, 14 boards, and eight assists as well as four steals. "I want to help continue that and hopefully we can get to the NCAA Tournament and be successful again this year."
Watson had some other options than Ole Miss. Minnesota was one (he said teammate Brian Smith's dad, Tubby, came down to visit him in his new job with the Golden Gophers). Miami (Fla.) was another. So was Illinois.
But it was Andy Kennedy that sold Watson on becoming an Ole Miss Rebel and going to war in the tough Southeastern Conference this winter.
"His demeanor and just him as a person," Watson said. "What really got to me was he came all the way to Flint, Mich., to see me. It was negative four degrees. I know he's a down-south guy and he's not used to that. He had his leather jacket on. He strapped on his shoes and he's walking in the cold, shaking. That just showed me he's a real person. He could have rescheduled or sent an assistant coach to see me. But he came to see me personally. That was big."
Watson said as the official start of preseason practice draws closer, he hopes to continue to improve and be ready for tipoff of the 2007-08 season.
"Just shooting some extra shots, trying to get in a rhythm, adjusting to playing at a higher level and bettering myself to help the team. And being a better basketball player and student. Whatever it takes to get on the court, that's what I want to do."
Watson brings game, personality to Rebels
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