The legend of Maurice Watson Jr., of Philadelphia, PA, began when he first arrived in Omaha for the 2014-15 season. The crafty point guard from Boston University was sought as the heir apparent to departing point guard Austin Chatman, yet his full impact was yet to be known. As the bizarre-o season of deflating less-than-5-point-losses wore on, the local media turned their attention to the star-in-waiting in Watson, sitting out a year due to transfer rules, noting that his speed and deftness with the basketball was going to propel him to the top of the BIG EAST point guard depth chart.
No one really noticed. Not even this blog site. The hype train left the station in Omaha only to break down just a few miles west of Waverly.
What we were treated to in his inaugural BIG EAST season was nothing short of spectacular. His ability to finish in the trees, to put up what normal peons would consider a low percentage shot only for the orange orb to sink through the hoop at an increasingly high clip, to dictate the floor for a team whose makeup was a melting pot of styles, and an ability to carry his team on the breadth of his Philly-formed shoulders to a 6th place finish was mesmerizing.
Consider the game against #5 Xavier, a game that showed Watson’s abilities to lead, a game that allowed a national audience to bask in the greatness he can carry. If you recall, Xavier had a wealth of talent last year down low, with Jalen Reynolds and James Farr complimenting the squad in the paint. If the Jays were to win, one would conceive the notion that Watson would have a rough time scoring in the paint, and would have to look elsewhere to gain an offensive advantage.
That notion would’ve been very false. Shame on you for believing otherwise.
The Bluejays came out of the gates scorching hot, building an 18 point lead early in the second half. At the 10:17 mark during a Xavier run, with the deficit cut to 10, James Farr got tangled up with Cole Huff and a short shoving match ensued. Watson sauntered into the altercation and made verbal noises in Farr’s general direction. Both players were handed a technical. To approach a man a foot taller and nearly 100 pounds heavier and spout words of discouragement takes a great deal of courage. Courage is something Watson apparently has in spades.
With nine minutes left in the second half Xavier was able to cut their deficit to six points at 50-44, a run that featured Farr and Reynolds absolutely destroying the Jays down low.
From that point on, Watson proceeded to score 13 of Creighton’s next 20 points to seal the 70-56 win. His final line: 11-21 FG, 32 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. It was a masterful performance that will forever be ingrained into the minds of Bluejay fans.
With the great responsibility of carrying his team to victory time and time again comes with a bit of a price. There were times last year where Watson appeared to press a bit more than he should have, attempting to be the central cog that rolls the Bluejay machine, yet ended up being the stick that caused it to jam. There was the foul out late in the loss at Georgetown that cost his team the steady hand that guides them. There was the loss at Marquette that featured Watson turning the ball over five times in the first half, allowing Marquette to score all five times at the other end.
Throughout the 2015-16 campaign, Watson posted only four games with a negative plus/minus ratio. The first time this occurred was against the Fightin’ Tom Crean’s of Indiana, where he managed to get a dish and score twice while turning the ball over five times. He followed up his lackluster performance with a stellar 10 assist game against Rutgers.
For 24 consecutive games following the blowout loss to the Fightin’ Tom Creans, Watson had more assists than turnovers, including one a clean sheet against North Texas in late December. His run came to a stop in the Bluejays’ loss against Marquette in February, posting a 5/7 TO/AST ratio, which he promptly followed up with a 7/1 performance against St. John’s. In the second go-around against Providence, Watson struggled to find the floor, posting a 4/4 AST/TO ratio and scoring only six points - yet he proceeded to follow this up with a 10/3 AST/TO performance against Xavier. When his game seems to be in a lull he promptly reverses course and dominates in the next contest. Punch, counter-punch. The Philly way.
I can feel only sympathy for the coaches in the BIG EAST who are tasked with forming a game plan against Watson. Like a pinhole leak in the foundation of a dam, Watson’s game seems innocent enough until you’re drowning in floaters and dishes out of the thick of the paint. It comes on slowly - the low percentage tosses towards the basket - and there’s a sense of relief that these near impossible shots can be attributed simply to luck. But then it keeps happening. More and more, the deficit begins to mount. The sweat on your forehead begins to pool into your $500 suit. The dam breaks, the floodgates open, and all of a sudden you’ve been completely outclassed by a 5’10 point guard. His points in the double digits, the off-beat Jazz that accompanies his dribbling seeping into your nightmares, those beautiful socks running rampant all over your gameplan. To watch Watson from the opponent’s bench is akin to watching ‘Batman vs Superman’ on repeat for the rest of your life.
The legacy of players past in the realm of Creighton hoops can be summed up with just a few names, most of them high scoring wings or really tall guys that could dominate the Valley. It seems like great point guards come around only so often for the University on the Hilltop. The hype that surrounded Josh Dotzler built to a climax before he broke his wrist and became unable to shoot the ball yet continued to wield a deft touch as he racked up assists. Cavel Witter complimented Dotzler with his ability to score, but was stymied under Altman’s offense. Antoine Young fooled Valley players by going to his left, but overall was just a serviceable player at point. Grant Gibbs will be remembered for his help during the McBucket era as well as his ability to stay in college for 20 years. Austin Chatman had moments of beauty on the hardwood with his sweet jump shot and innate ability to find his shooters, but fell a bit short to find a successful rhythm when the team needed it most.
Maurice Watson Jr., transcends the point guards in his recent past. He stands tall in a league of his own. There have been plays that he’s made that I witnessed with the naked eye that I’ve never quite seen someone accomplish. As much as I write about gravity and basketball, Watson finds a way to absolve the orange orb of gravity’s insatiable pull to the earth and create shots that mortal humans simply cannot.
In essence, Watson is one of the better talents that have strolled through the city of Omaha. If his senior season resembles his junior year then his legacy will be lasting on campus for quite some time.
(Special thanks to White & Blue Review for all of their multimedia content. Without you, this article would be unreadable.)