By Matt Popchock
For as brief as the history of Lincoln Park’s boys’ basketball program has been, that history has been an illustrious one. On Monday afternoon in Midland another proud chapter was written.
Senior all-section honoree Devontae Watson did the writing when, with school officials and family looking on, he inked his letter of intent to play at Temple next fall, thus officially becoming Lincoln Park’s first ever Division I scholar athlete.
Watson, a 6’10”, 195-pound center/power forward, had been offered by other Atlantic 10 schools, including Duquesne and Dayton, and had also drawn interest from Pitt, West Virginia, and Villanova, but the first school to make him an offer turned out to be the victor in this recruiting battle.
“Temple was the school that was the most true to me. When I played in the AAU King James tournament down in Florida, Temple [program representatives] were at every one of my games,” Watson said. “They came to some of my games here, too, last year, and like I’ve said before, I’m a loyal guy.”
“He can do things [defensively] that I’m sure a lot of other kids can’t,” head coach Mark Javens said of his towering senior, “and that help gets our offense going in transition.”
The same can be said of Watson’s teammates, as Lincoln Park, since its formation, has usually fielded one of the more athletic teams in the WPIAL. So what makes this young man stand out?
“Well, first of all, he’s 6’10”, so you can’t miss him,” Javens said with a smile. “But he’s a 6’10” kid who can actually run the floor, block shots, and rebound. He’s getting better offensively, and he alters the game.”
He’s altered quite a few games, that’s for sure–by altering any thoughts opposing players might have of driving the lane, and altering others’ expectations of him.
“I never would have imagined this in eighth or ninth grade, but once I came here, I started to [believe],” Watson admitted.
The gentle giant transferred from Hopewell to Lincoln Park for the start of his sophomore season, and after overcoming personal turmoil, including a life-threatening car accident, he enters his senior campaign with an astonishing 915 career blocks. Judging by his career pace, it may take him just a handful of non-conference games to reach a thousand.
Watson is also on pace to reach the 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound plateau this approaching season.
Didn’t see that one coming two years ago, did you, Coach?
“Absolutely not,” Javens said. “I haven’t seen that since I’ve been coaching…and I haven’t seen it since I’ve been playing, either.”
“He’s going to a great program…and they have a 6’11” kid on his way out, so they want him to play right away. It’s a great fit for him both academically and athletically,” Javens said.
Watson will be joining a team that will include fellow 6’11” forward and Nigerian native Michael Eric and 6’10” Jimmy McConnell, so the Owls will already have a physically impressive front. Still, head coach Fran Dunphy, who guided Temple to the NCAA Round of 32 last season, believes Watson can make a seamless transition to A-10 hoops, and so does Watson himself.
“I think I can be an impact player from the start. I think I can be a team player, and help them make it back to the Tournament.”
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)