Former UT point guard Watson leading Southern Miss into NCAA TournamentWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Two years removed from leaving Toledo after the hire of head coach Tod Kowalczyk, point guard Neil Watson is making a major mark at NCAA Tournament nine seed Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles take on No. 8 Kansas State at 12:40 p.m. March 15.
In his first year of action, Watson is leading the Golden Eagles in scoring (12.2) and assists (4.5) per game, earning Second-Team All-Conference USA honors and the league’s Newcomer of the Year award.
Watson left the team in April 2010 and wrote at the time on his Facebook page that “[Kowalczyk] said I don’t fit his system … but basically he just wants to bring in his own guys. I don’t know how he’s going to say I don’t fit in when he hasn’t seen me play, but oh well. It’s a set back but not going to stop me.”
At the time, Kowalczyk addressed the departure of Watson along with Larry Bastfield and Josh Freelove saying that “the program is at an all-time low and some changes need to be made.”
“We’re about building this program back to being competitive and hopefully competing for Mid-American Conference Championships in the future and this is the direction we felt we needed to go,” said Kowalczyk in April 2010. “Some of those decisions [to leave] were the [player's] decisions and some of them were my decisions. I think this program needs to move forward in a direction of trying to get guys that academically are accountable and responsible.”
It’s clear Watson has used his departure as motivation, posting online on Jan. 10 “I wanna thank coach know at Toledo for telling me i wasn’t good or big enough to play for him, you keep me motivated everyday and I will rise.”
Twelve days later he again had words again for Kowalczyk, posting “I wish the coach from Toledo could see my team and me now, you still think I’m to small? #motivation.”
The Rockets now have a talented point guard of their own in Juice Brown, who was named MAC Freshman of the Year averaging 11.9 points and 4.8 assists this season.