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Old blueprint works perfectly

Posted on Tue, Jan. 31, 2006

Old blueprint works perfectly
In fourth season, Watson has Tigers unbeaten in conference
By JOHN DEVLIN
Special to The State

When Fred Watson took over as men’s basketball coach at Benedict College four years ago, he had a clear idea how he intended to restore the program’s luster.

He merely referred to the blueprint used by former coach and current Benedict athletics director Willie Washington to make the Tigers an NAIA power during the 1990s. Watson learned that blueprint first-hand as a four-year player at Benedict after being recruited out of Choppee High, since shut down, in Georgetown County.

“Coach Washington knew what he was doing,” said Watson, who graduated in 1998 — the last year of a run of eight consecutive conference championships in the old Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

“He recruited talented players, but there were never any ego problems. If you didn’t play defense, you weren’t going to be around very long. That’s basically the same approach I’ve taken.”

The results have been encouraging. After going 11-12 in his first season, Watson guided the Tigers to a 38-19 record during the next two seasons combined, including a spot in the NCAA Division II national tournament in 2004.

This season, Benedict (13-3 overall, 12-0 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) is riding a 13-game winning streak entering tonight’s home game against second-place Paine. The Tigers are No. 8 in the NCAA Division II South Region rankings. They rank ninth in the country in scoring defense (60.1) and 12th in field-goal-percentage defense (.387).

Watson also shares Washington’s broad focus when recruiting.

Junior forward Josh Obiajunwa, who leads Benedict with a scoring average of 12.5 points per game, is from Jos, Nigeria. He came to Watson’s attention through former Benedict women’s basketball coach Maurice Bailey, who is a friend of the Nigerian national team coach.

Taiwan Byrd, a 6-foot-5 junior forward (10.2 ppg.) and junior guard Joel Brown (10.1 ppg.) are natives of Miami, Fla.Point guards Malik McCullough, a senior who averages 8.6 points and leads the team in assists (59) and steals (25), and sophomore Jerry Jackson are from Harlem in New York City and Compton in Los Angeles, Calif., respectively. McCullough, whose father is a Benedict graduate, is the only player who has been with Watson for four seasons.

The Benedict roster also includes South Carolina natives Zachary Baron, the son of Orangeburg-Wilkinson coach John Baron; Robert Booker (Laurens); Corey Myers (Sumter); and Tony Matthews (North Charleston).

“We’ve been able to develop a pretty good network, and I get a lot of help in recruiting from my assistants James Rice, Jason James and Pete Asmond,” said Watson.

Source: The State Newspaper