At Hoop Group events, with the wealth of talent that comes in from across the country to compete, there is often a clash in regional styles. The high-flying, athletic Southern style collides with the guard-heavy New York style.
From the City of Brotherly Love comes Team Philly, led by their Class of 2012 point guard Maurice Watson.
Philadelphia’s gritty, grind-it-out, physical style of play has produced champions and pros, including Hoop Group alumni Jameer Nelson, Tyreke Evans, and Hakim Warrick. Watson carries that mentality with him and wears the Philly emotion on his sleeve.
“Philly brings a lot of heart and intensity. Everything we do from Philly is for pride,” said Watson. “We win as one, we do it as one. And that bond right there makes us one of the best cities to play from.”
Though he is only 5’9” tall, what Watson lacks in height, he makes up for with hustle and passion. He is impressively quick and his motor is always running. Even late in the second half of a game against the Montgomery Kings, he was consistently beating his defender off the dribble, sprinting on defense, and running around screens with energy most players only have in the first few minutes of a game.
He stays low to the ground, which gives him a tight handle and allows him to get into the lane without turning the ball over. His court vision is highly-developed and he rarely makes an ill-advised pass.
Most importantly, he has learned how to use the pieces around him to his advantage, including big man Brandon Taylor, with whom he has developed a strong inside-out game.
But, even with the physical aspects of the game at which he excels, Watson takes just as much pride in being the team’s emotional centerpiece.
“I go out there trying to be a leader,” he said. “I don’t mind jumping on my teammates. Some players don’t like to [criticize] their teammates. Once I [criticize] you, I’m going to pick you back up.”
For only being a high school junior, Watson is impressively articulate and well-spoken. He speaks about his role in figurative language, likening his position at point guard to a quarterback and “the head of the snake” because “it runs everything.”
The schools that are recruiting him reflect the caliber of academic achievement he has been able to attain, outside of his work on the basketball court. He is drawing interest from Ivy League schools, including Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Penn, along with other high-academic schools like Bucknell, Boston University, and Quinnipiac.
“Academics are key to me. The school I choose has to have my major,” he said, looking beyond basketball. “The relationship and the environment are important. At the school I go to, I want to have a strong support system. I can help them win as many basketball games as possible, while getting an education.”
Wherever the success comes for Maurice Watson, whether on the court or off (though, all signs say he will find it in both places) there is one thing for sure: this young man cannot be stopped from achieving what he wants to achieve.