BOYS BASKETBALL: Grosse Pointe North's Ricky Watson opts to go the prep school route |
DETROIT - According to the NCAA, approximately 3.1 percent of high school senior boys playing interscholastic basketball will go on to play men's basketball at a NCAA member institution. About 1.2 percent of NCAA male senior basketball players will get drafted by a NBA team.
Still hundreds of thousands of young men in high schools across the nation still chase that dream of being the next Lebron James, or Jabari Parker. The reality is, everyone won't have the opportunity to play at programs like Michigan State, Michigan or Duke out of high school, but that doesn't mean the dream is over for players like Ricky Watson.
Watson is a senior at Grosse Pointe North High School, who isn't well known like a lot of his basketball buddies around the city and didn't receive as much college attention.
"I lacked exposure probably because of the school I go to," he said. "We are not really a basketball school, so we really didn't play in big games, or draw any attention."
My senior year was really rough. We went 4-17, losing 15 games by four points or less. I don't really regret it, because I have made some great connections while I was here."
Watson is scheduled to graduate in a couples of months and has opted to attend a prep school in Georgia. It's not the route that he dreamed of taking, but has motivated him anymore.
"I didn't have any offers because of lack exposure," he said. "But I was looking at a lot JUCO's such as Paris, Palm Beach State, and Mott just to name a few."
It really just humbled me and made me realize how much harder I have to work to get my name out there."
The Georgia Prep Sports Academy was founded in 2013, only participating in football, but now they have added basketball for the 2014 season. Dorian Grady (Flint Southwestern) and Jalen Brady (Southfield) are two former Michigan high school football players who attend the program and Watson will join them for basketball.
" I visited lady weekend and went it good," he said. "They made me feel like I could trust them and they were going to help me reach my goal of receiving a scholarship to a college, no matter if it's DI, D2, or D3."
Also the way they play, also matched my play style."
The program is also located in Atlanta, which is another reason why Watson decided to attend over the other schools when he visited, among other things.
"Their recruiter is from Michigan and he gave me a call and told me to come visit," he said. "I went down there, they like what they saw and I liked the environment and coaching staff. This was their first year having a basketball team, after being known for football."
A few of Watson's friends around the city of Detroit are attending Division I schools, including Edmond Sumner (Xavier), Darrell Davis (Dayton), and Mory Diane (Buffalo), but that hasn't affected at all. His former AAU teammate Eddie Reese will join him at The Georgia Prep Sports Academy and that is good enough for him.
"I'm happy for them," Watson said. "God has a different plan for me so I didn't really worry. I'm very excited about playing with Eddie (Reese) again. It's always fun playing with him and he makes the game a lot easier for me."
The Georgia Prep Sports Academy has helped several young men obtain scholarships in football and will do the same for those playing basketball. Watson's goal is to continuing playing basketball in college and it doesn't matter what level it is on to him.
"Basketball means everything to me," he said. "It's always been a dream of mine since I was around the age of three. I can't just stop doing something I really have a passion for."
Watson's story is a lesson to all young men coming out of high school that the dream doesn't has to stop if you aren't going to a Division I program. Hall of Famers Joe Dumars and Scottie Pippen didn't attend high major programs, but went on to have successful careers in the pros.
"Just work hard and don't worry about the rankings or media, because that's going to have you doubting your abilities," said Watson. "Division I isn't the option and there is other great competition at the NIAA, Division 2 and Division 3 levels. Don't get caught up in the hype."