Hard work, perseverance make Watson integral part of Big Reds' tournament run

Muskegon Big Reds senior forward Justin Watson has averaged 10 points and five rebounds per game.

By Melvin Lane

Justin Watson knows what it is like to have something prematurely taken away.

The 6-7 sharpshooting senior forward for the Muskegon Big Reds was injured with a fractured pelvis this past offseason. The injury forced Watson to miss AAU travel basketball and high school team basketball activities.

“That period was really tough for me not getting offers, not playing AAU and just not being able to participate in everything. I just began to get down on myself a lot for being injured but the guys kept me up," said Watson. "Just being able to come up to the school every morning kept me going."

The unsigned senior was an integral part during the Big Reds' run to the Breslin Center where they fell to Detroit Cass Tech in the Division 1 state championship game. This season Watson, as a starter for Muskegon, averages 10 points and five rebounds per game. He shoots 39 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

In his biggest game of the season, Watson erupted for a career high 28 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against Mona Shores. Watson went 7-9 from 3, which tied a school record for 3-pointers made in a game.

“Last year, Justin was learning the system and learning what we expect out of him," said Big Red Coach Keith Guy. "Towards the end of the season, he started to play more and add more value to our team."

Now healthy, a confident Watson is enjoying team success and being on the court in a Big Red uniform. Often at games, Watson has his own section filled with family and friends.

“Seeing my Watson family means a lot," Watson said. "I have an aunt who prays for me before every game. I’m thankful for the support."

With Watson’s size, it’s often difficult for opponents to affect his high rainbow arch 3-point attempts that delight the crowd. A shot that Watson isn’t hesitant to take and admits he enjoys taking them the most.

“My big brother and my dad helped me get into the game of basketball," he said. "I often played against older kids growing up because my brother is 5 years older than me. Every time with the older kids I was getting pushed over. So, every time when I would get the ball, I would just throw it up and I guess it has just carried over through the years. Coach Guy, who’s M’Khi Guy’s dad, gave me the nickname "Shooter" when I was young playing for the Muskegon Heat. Hearing Shooter yelled out from the crowd when I touch the ball gives me confidence too and I begin to do other things that affect winning too."

The Big Reds hope to keep the momentum rolling into the tournament with district play this week at Mona Shores. Coach Guy will look for the senior to provide leadership and production as the Big Reds look to make another long postseason run.

“When Justin was injured, he was here and he was positive," Guy said. "That showed maturity. For him, I felt bad because a lot of recruitment happens during the spring and summer, and no one saw him play. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to. He understands now that basketball is something that can be taken away. It’s a privilege. He’s not taking this time for granted since his injury.

"He isn’t shy of the moment because he works so hard. He played big minutes in the quarterfinals last year. I don’t know if we make it to the semifinals without Justin."

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