Donald Watts, my former teammate at the University of Washington, is a staple in the Seattle basketball community. The son of former Seattle SuperSonics’ great Slick Watts, Donald is a mentor to dozens of area basketball players through his Watts Basketball team and player development program.
Donald, 41, is still considered one of the best high school basketball players in Washington state history. As a senior at Lake Washington High School in 1994-95 he averaged 22.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals and was named Washington’s Mr. Basketball. He went on to lead UW to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 1998 and 1999 before embarking on a pro basketball career.
I recently caught up with Donald and asked him seven questions:
What is your best high school basketball memory?
My first dunk in a high school game my freshman year vs. Mercer Island. I went past everyone, including my “big bro” Freddy Brown Jr., and dunked on their 6-10 big man for an “and one.” It was totally accidental. I was so terrified by what I just did my knees where shaking at the free throw line and I hit nothing but the backboard.
The dunk was my only two points that game, but that is when my confidence as a high school player was born. After that I was trying to dunk on everybody!
What impact did your high school coaches have on you?
I had three high school coaches and I love them all. They all taught me something different. But the sum of the lessons was: hard work creates opportunities, how to be humble, and to always think not about what you can do, but what you can do for your team and others.
What are you doing now?
I’m staying super busy doing some radio and TV. I’m primarily running Watts Basketball camps and training players and coaches with players and coaches. #GameChangers For Life.
Who is the best player you played against in high school?
Do you have any advice for today’s high school players?
Dedicate your time and attention to developing your craft, cherish the relationships you build with your teammates and community and beware of the outside, unfounded opinions.
What is your opinion about AAU and high school basketball (the recruiting process in general)?
If you can play they (college coaches) will find you. AAU basketball can be a great opportunity for prospects and recruiting; there are a few great programs for that. On the flip side I feel like AAU has mostly become a watered down money grab, full of empty promises, distracting players and families from development and the core values of our game.
What was your favorite high school gym and rivalry?
Mercer Island, hands down. They got the best of me almost every time, but they kept me working and striving to get over the hump that was the Islanders. Plus after being dunked on hard by a freshman they carried a little extra competitive love for me also.
Watts’ playing background
High School basketball: Interlake 1991-93; Lake Washington 1993-95
College basketball: University of Washington 1995-99
Pro basketball: CBA 1999-2000; NBA D-League 2001-02; Brussels Belgium 2007-08
And in case you were wondering if Watts can still play, he dropped 55 in a summer league game just a few years ago: