All the 6-foot-8 forward has done since learning last week that new Wildcats coach Bruce Weber was not keeping him on the roster is angrily wonder about what went wrong.
“I was so shocked,” Watson said in a phone interview. “I didn’t want to hear what they were telling me. I thought April Fool’s was back I was so shocked. I don’t know why the new coach kicked me off the team. I think it’s really messed up. I could have helped the team next year.
“I was really looking forward to it. I was doing workouts, individuals, lifting weights. I was doing pretty good, too. He told me, ‘You’re doing really good and have more experience than some of the other players.’ And when Frank Martin left he told me, ‘You’re one of the most talented players on the team.’ Now I’m cut. I don’t get it. I guess it hasn’t hit me yet.”
Watson’s emotions aren’t surprising. Any time a coach decides to part ways with a player there are bound to be hurt feelings. In this case, Weber needed to make scholarship room for Chicago-area point guard Michael Orris. Weber originally recruited Orris to Illinois and wanted him to play at K-State. With Watson no longer on the team, Orris has a scholarship.
K-State’s reasons for parting ways with Watson are complicated. Watson, a former Washington State and Cowley College transfer with a rough upbringing (he was adopted at the age of 14 and lost a sister in a car accident), has a heart defect that causes him to faint. It happened when he was at Washington State early in his college career and again last year before the season began.
Watson says he collapsed in the bathroom of his apartment, and an ambulance was sent to his home when he didn’t show up for practice that day. He spent time in the hospital, and spent most of the preseason trying to play catch-up with his teammates. Then he injured his elbow, and his chances of seeing playing time disappeared. He saw action in only one game and was held scoreless.
K-State informed Watson and his family that he will remain on scholarship, but won’t be on the basketball team because of health concerns.
Watson views things differently.
“I feel like he was just trying to open up a scholarship and wanted me off the team,” Watson said. “I feel 100-percent healthy. I only fainted once during my time here, and that was with the old coaching staff. It never happened when Bruce Weber was around. I worked to come back from my injury … It’s crazy.
“I’m fine. I feel fine. I got cleared and everything. I’ve been killing it these last couple weeks in practices. I felt like I was one of the best players out there. I’m just still in total shock. I came here to play basketball. I really felt like I could help next year. This year was my chance. I can go out for most positions. I’m a very versatile player.
“To see myself kicked off the team for supposedly having health issues, which I don’t really think is the case — they just wanted to open a scholarship up … I don’t know what to say. Basketball is my life. To see it taken away from me is just messed up.”
There isn’t much he can do about it now, though. Watson could try to transfer to another school, but he says he will come back to K-State next semester and graduate with a degree in social science.
“I’m going to stay here and get a degree,” Watson said. “A degree has always been important to me and my family. I can’t play basketball all my life. I’ve got to have a plan B. This is my Plan B. Whatever God has planned for me.”
He may try to play elsewhere after his school work is completed, and said his former Washington State teammates have encouraged him to seek a return to the Cougars. Though that scenario is unlikely.
If it was up to him, he would still be preparing to play for K-State next season.
“The most disappointing thing is that I really wanted to play for the K-State fans, because they are why I came here,” Watson said. “I’m really thankful for how they treated me. The fan support here is unbelievable. I wish I could have shown them my talent, but I can’t because I got cut from the team.”