Jay Watkins learned a couple of life lessons from former teammate and Memphis signee Shawne Williams from their days at Hamilton High School in Memphis, Tenn. Now Watkins, a 6-foot-8, 205 pound forward, is learning the ropes when it comes to the recruiting process.
Just a junior and the No. 114 ranked player in the country, Watkins has matured early when it comes to hoops and a lot of that can be directed back to last year when Williams sat out the season because of academic issues. That is when Watkins believes he began to grow into the player he is today.
“Last year was kind of my breakout season,” Watkins said. “I had to step up because when Shawne couldn’t play because of academics. People didn’t really know what to expect. Now people know more (about me) than they did last year. And I try to get better each and every year I play.”
Watkins and Williams, who moved onto Laurinburg (N.C.) before going to the University of Memphis for his college playing days, have developed an interesting relationship since Watkins’ freshman season.
“On the court, he taught me how to be a leader,” Watkins says. “He wasn’t really the vocal kind of leader but more through his actions. On certain situations, he’d step up when he needed to.
“Through him, I learned that in order to get to where I needed to get to I need to learn how live off the court skills. He is a prime example. You hear about great basketball players that couldn’t get into college or move on to bigger things but it never really hits effect you until you experience it yourself. It opened my eyes and was kind of like a wake up call.”
The academic wake up call has paid off. Watkins maintains a 3.3 grade point average and just received his score from the ACT; a qualifying score at that. On the court, he has helped Hamilton (who plays with just two seniors) to an 8-1 start on the season.
Watkins said Clemson, Colorado, Illinois State, Memphis, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, South Carolina, UAB, Western Illinois and others came out to see him play already this season. He even has a trio of schools that rank high on his list.
“Georgia Tech, UConn and Memphis are the three that stand out and I’m leaning towards Georgia Tech the most,” Watkins said. “When I start taking (official) visits, those three will be the first I look at.”
He visited Georgia Tech three weeks ago and says the Yellow Jackets are one of the top schools on his list since his time in Atlanta.
Now one of the top players in the loaded Memphis area, Watkins will be a highly sought after player during the summer when he plays with the Arkansas Angels AAU program.