If he could be a superhero, he would be the Wolverine. If he could be one athlete, he would be Allen Iverson. While both are interesting choices, it is more interesting in how they parallel to the overall game of Leicester Riders’ point guard Neil Watson.
Iverson was roughly 6 feet tall but according to Watson, no player had more heart than him. In Watson’s mind, no one could stop the Wolverine and when the Kansas City, Kansas native takes the court, he plays with the same mentality.
Beginning his second season with the Leicester Riders in the British Basketball League, Watson discussed with the Red Diamond Report about his start to basketball, his love for the game, his growth as a player and where he plans to be in the future.
1. Discuss your journey up until this point. Who is Neil Watson ? How has he grown from his days at Southern Miss to playing for the Leicester Riders?
Watson: Basketball has always been and still is my most loved aspect. The difference from USM Neil and Leicester Riders Neil is maturity. I’ve grown as a player and as a man.
2. When did you begin playing basketball as a child?
Watson: I started playing at three years old.
3. Who motivated or inspired you play basketball at a young age? Why?
Watson: It just happened the second I picked up a ball and my dad bought me a Fisher Price goal. I’ve been in love ever since.
4. How were your parents in regard to motivating you to play sports? Did they play?
Watson: Neither of my parents were sports people. But my mom was very supportive as was my dad. And they pushed me to the limits everyday.
5. What is one of your favorite NBA memories that inspired you to play as a child?
Watson: One of my favorite memories was Steve Nash having back to back MVP seasons but everything to me about the sport was an inspiration. I was like a sponge soaking everything I could about the game.
6. What was your favorite childhood sport?
Watson: The only sport I played and took seriously was basketball. Other sports I played, I played because my friends did.
7. You give back to the community by hosting basketball camps and other community-oriented initiatives. What made you start this and what is the name of the camp?
Watson: I help with a company called the Great American Basketball League (GABL). I love helping kids develop a love for the game, skill development and mental toughness.
8. How was life for you growing up in Kansas City?
Watson: Life was pretty easy. My parents worked day and night to make sure I could have what I wanted and the opportunity to play the game I loved.
9. What middle school did you go to? What do you remember the most about it, pertaining to sports?
Watson: I went to Eisenhower Middle School. My eighth grade year, we went undefeated in football, 7-1 in basketball and I went 7-1 in wrestling ahahah.
10. Did you play AAU ball growing up? If so, what team? What did you learn from playing AAU ball if you played?
Watson: I did. I played for MO-KAN Elite. I learned how to be mentally tough and fight through the urge of wanting to give up or back down.
11. You went to Sumner Academy. Take a step back to reflect on this experience. What do you remember the most about it? How did it help you become the player you are today?
Watson: I remember being the best team in my area and going undefeated in conference two years in a row. It helped me become a leader because I had to lead guys my age and guys as young as freshman. Dealing with that many different age groups was tough but prepared me for college.
12. Who were your high school coaches? What did they stress to you in high school to be the best player you could be?
Watson: Randy Springs and Danial Parra. They stressed being a leader and being mature. When you lead, everyone follows your actions. How you act reflects the attitude and actions of the team.
13. What are some of the best memories from Sumner?
Watson: Some of my best memories were winning sub-state to go to state two years in a row, winning the Blue Valley Tournament and Spring Hill Tournament.
14. After high school you made the transition from high school star athlete to Coffeyville Community College. Talk about this transition. Was it difficult and how did it prepare you for playing at Southern Miss.
Watson: Every transition is difficult in its own way, but Coffeyville taught me to deal with mature young men and grown men. It helped me to talk and approach men with their own individual mind sets.
15. As you look back on your stellar career at Southern Miss. What are three things that you remember and enjoyed the most?
Watson: When we beat Memphis at home, going to the NCAA TOURNEY, winning conference for the first time in years maybe ever and the game winner I made against Marshall on television.
16. What are some things you took away from your days at Southern Miss that you still use today in your everyday life and in the game?
Watson: Playing hard and going hard. Whatever I do in life, I do it to the best of ability because I don’t want to let anyone down or disappoint anyone.
17. How much did coach Donnie Tyndall have on your growth as a basketball player, despite all the issues surrounding him?
Watson: A lot. I had to deal with a ton of nonsense while he was my coach. It taught me to fight through adversity and never keep my head down. When you get knocked down, get back up.
18. How was the transition at each stage of your life in terms of basketball, from high school to college and from college to playing overseas?
Watson: The guys kept getting stronger and the IQ level drastically increased at each level.
19. You decided to play professionally in the British Basketball League (BBL)? Explain your feelings about this.
Watson: I love it. I feel you have to start somewhere and I feel where I’m starting is where I’m suppose to be.
20. Have you enjoyed playing for Leicester Riders? What are you looking forward to the most in Year Two?
Watson: Winning trophies is the only thing on my mind.
21. Have you ever gotten discouraged along your journey?
Watson: Yes but not very often. Being discouraged hits everyone in the face at some point along the journey.
22. You received a new deal with the team back in May. What did this mean to you?
— Leicester Riders (@RidersBball) September 2, 2015
Watson: It means everything to me. I feel like I have unfinished business and I’m looking to go beyond what I achieved last season with the club.
23. How do you plan to improve going into next season? What are the coaches stressing to you to make you a better player?
Watson: Looking to improve my leadership skills and lose all of my immature ways.
24. Do you still have desires to play in the NBA after playing in the BBL?
Watson: I plan to make my efforts for the NBA after this upcoming season.
25. If you had to describe yourself, what would you say?
Watson: I work hard, I motivate, I’ll always push my team to achieve what no one thinks we can.
26. If you could be one Superhero and one athlete, who would you be?
Watson: I would be The Wolverine because no one can stop him lol and I would be Allen Iverson because no one had more heart than him.
Getting to know Neil Watson
Full Name: Neil Watson
Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas
Team: Leicester Riders (United Kingdom)
Parents: Bryan and Chrystal Watson
Position: Point Guard and Shooting Guard
Fun Fact: Fifa is my favorite video game.
Nickname: I have a ton lol
Life Motto: “Live for today because tomorrow is not a for sure thing.”
Favorite Athlete growing up and why: My favorite player was Steve Nash because he always got his team involved and was never a selfish player.
Favorite Team growing up and why: My favorite team was the Kansas Jayhawks because they played as one unit and didn’t have any egos.
What makes you stand out: my hair and personality
Why you chose the University of Southern Mississippi to play college basketball: I chose USM because it was a family based system. I had guys like Yaro Phillips, Maurice Bolden, Lashay Page, Sai’Quon Stone and Gary Flowers to teach me how to be successful.