Mercer's Watts picks Missouri-St. Louis

April 19, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

HARRODSBURG - It didn't take the coach at the University of Missouri-St. Louis long to conclude that he wanted Courtney Watts on his team, and that helped Watts conclude that it was the right place for her.

The Mercer County guard, the reigning 12th Region player of the year, plans to sign with the Division II school Thursday.

Missouri-St. Louis coach Lee Buchanan was interested in Watts from the first time he saw her play, and his interest made an impression on Watts, who said she chose UMSL over Campbellsville.

"That was real important for me to know that I could come in there and fit in and that they wanted me to come," Watts said.


Watts ranks at the top of her class and could easily qualify for any number of academic scholarships, but Buchanan thought enough of her to offer a full athletic scholarship.

"That meant a lot to me," she said.

Camp director provided help

Watts is a repeat customer at the Blue Chip High Exposure Camp in Louisville - she was named one of the top 20 players at last year's camp - and Mercer coach Chris Souder said camp director Jim Underwood gave him an assessment of what level Watts could play at and the name of a coach looking for players: Buchanan.

"Next thing you know, he showed up at our Boyle County game, and as soon as the game's over, the first thing he said to me was, 'I've got to have her,'" Souder said.

Buchanan made the six-hour drive for two or three more games.

"That meant a lot to me that he would come and watch," Watts said. "I didn't know the first time he was coming, so that surprised me."

"The first time he came he said he was interested, and he gave me an offer pretty soon after that. It all happened pretty fast."

It wasn't long before Watts paid a visit to St. Louis, and now she'll be spending much more time there.

"A lot of (my friends) are surprised because everybody, including myself, didn't think I'd go that far away from home," she said.

In league with Bellarmine, Kentucky Wesleyan and Northern Kentucky

Watts has a chance to help turn things around at UMSL, which has had three straight losing seasons. The Riverwomen went 7-20 last winter and were 4-16 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, a league that includes Bellarmine, Kentucky Wesleyan and Northern Kentucky.

Buchanan, who coached at Brescia from 1986-98, took over the team late last summer and had only nine players on the roster for his first season.

"(Buchanan's) made a big difference at all the colleges where he's been, and he's looking to come in and turn this program around," Watts said. "It was real important for his first (recruiting) year to get in some players who he knew would stay around and make a difference."

Watts is a three-time first-team selection on The Advocate-Messenger's All-Area team.

She led Mercer in scoring with 14.3 points per game and led all area players in assists with 7.3 per game last season. She shot 47.1 percent from the field and 80 percent at the free-throw line and averaged 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals.

Watts spent Friday night and Saturday in Georgetown at the tryouts for the Kentucky all-stars, and she said that experience should help her prepare for playing in college even though she did not make the team.

"I'm looking for something that'll improve my basketball and where I can have fun," she said before the tryout.

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