When the perfect opportunity presents itself, it’s impossible to turn your back.
That’s what 2015 forward Michael Watkins realized, as he verbally committed to play for Penn State on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-8 forward believes that the opportunity the Nittany Lions presented was too good to pass up.
“Penn State is the right situation for me on and off the court,” Watkins said via text message. “The coaching staff fits my personality and the school allows me to the opportunity to play right away in the Big Ten, allowing me the opportunity to play on the biggest stage and be close to home.”
(More on Watkins: check out his CoBL recruiting profile)
Charles Jones, a former Bartram and Widener basketball player, took Watkins under his wing and has been a source of guidance and support on a journey that they hope will lead the forward to a professional career.
“Mike and I linked up at Bartram, we just kind of connected from day one,” Jones said. “From the first time we met, he’s kind of been a little brother/son to me. We’re from the same neighborhood and it’s been an inseparable relationship. Some of the things that we always talked about was the fact that, Mike has the aspirations of pursuing a professional career.
“For us, we always looked at it as a four-year, five-year plan. Our plan has been like ‘for the next two years, we want to get you through school, get you eligible’. We want him to get him to be the most talented player he can be, on-and-off the court, in these next two years to prepare him to be a starter at the next level.”
That plan, as it turns out, fit in right with what the Nittany Lions were offering, which made Watkins’ decision that much easier.
“We went up [to State College] and it all made sense,” Jones said. “The coaching staff, the players, it just seemed like the family vibe was perfect, for working on the court and getting him where he needs to be and accomplish those goals.
“When Penn State came about, it was almost the perfect timing in the perfect situation. We didn’t want this to be a whole big thing, now he can focus on getting eligible, getting better. Penn State is in the Big Ten, on of the best conferences in the country. He has a chance to play at that level and possibly start, it was just one of those things where you don’t play around with it, it was just a great situation for him. It all added up to what we were looking for academically and on the court.”
The distance between State College and Watkins’ home was also a big factor in the decision, as Jones wanted the forward to get away from the city, while still having the ability to make sure that his family is doing well.
“Penn State kind of saw that vision we were going towards, they knew what direction we were going so it was just a perfect fit,” Jones said. “One of the things Mike wanted to do was to stay home, so it allows him to not go too far, but to get away as well. That two hour, 45 minute drive is perfect for him, he’s away from home but has the option of being able to come back home and take care of his family, make sure they’re okay when needed.”
Miami, Temple, St. Joe’s, Villanova and Drexel were all showing interest in the forward, with many more waiting until the July live period to get another look at him.
Jones also confirmed that Watkins, formerly of Bartram High School, will transfer to Imhotep next year.
The Recruit Scoop’s Alex Kline broke the news about Watkins’ college decision.