IONIA — Regardless of lacking about a whole season’s value of basketball video games throughout her highschool profession because of a mess of shoulder accidents, Kellie Watson should be the biggest athlete in her faculty’s historical past.
The 2008 Ionia graduate can be inducted into the Ionia Excessive Faculty Corridor of Fame’s 2018 class this Saturday at a particular ceremony at Steele Road Corridor.
Watson headlines a category which incorporates eight different inductees — LaVern Zander, James Nichols, Lynn Harwood, Cherie White, Jim Klein, Becky Banhagel, Gary Swinehart and the 1977-78 boys basketball staff. All inductees might be honored at Ionia’s soccer recreation this Friday, as nicely.
Watson is the lone first-ballot athlete inducted into this yr’s class, an honor which she was not anticipating in the least bit.
“Coach (Scott) Swinehart called and I just had no idea what possibly it could have been, no idea. And he told me, ‘Congratulations, we have this (Hall of Fame) thing now. You’re first ballot, you made it in. Ten years after you graduate you’re eligible.’ And I was just like, ‘Excuse me?’” Watson laughed. “No, but it was really exciting, especially (hearing it) from coach Swinehart. I had grown up with him coaching men’s basketball when I was teeny tiny, so he was at all the camps and everything we did. So it was the kind of thing where I was close to him and it was special to hear it from him.”
Though Watson was stunned to listen to the information, it was no shock to the Ionia group or Watson’s former highschool coach and present Ionia Excessive Faculty Athletic Director, Andy Barr.
“For a lot of teams, Kellie was a very tough matchup,” Barr stated. “If you put someone small on her, she’s going to post her up. If you put somebody bigger on her, she’s going to take them out to the perimeter and beat her that way. So she certainly created a matchup challenge for a lot of teams.”
The 6-foot, 2-inch-tall Watson wasn’t a low-post participant regardless of her measurement. Enjoying varsity in all 4 years of highschool, Watson performed the capturing guard and small ahead position for her first few seasons earlier than transitioning to level guard later in her highschool profession. A participant of her measurement bringing the ball up the courtroom was a tall process for a lot of opponents to deal with.
Although she might have stayed at her wing-player position had it not been for one factor that plagued her profession — persistent shoulder points. In highschool alone, Watson had three shoulder surgical procedures all referring to her glenoid labrum, a joint that connects the higher arm bone to the shoulder.
As a preventative measure, Barr moved Watson to the level guard position to permit her to keep away from as a lot contact as attainable. Watson thrived on this position, and just about each position she performed, given her measurement and capturing capacity.
“We did play her inside when she was a junior. She pretty much brought the ball up, passed it, then went down to the post and posted up,” Barr laughed.
Watson started to obtain a variety of hype inside the Ionia space as she entered her freshman season with the Bulldogs, which is when she began to obtain school provides, as properly.
A standout softball participant as nicely, Watson was named All-Convention, All-District, All-Area and All-State in her three years in the sport. Finally, she was unable to proceed her softball profession in school, nevertheless.
“I wanted to do both (basketball and softball), that had been my dream, always,” Watson stated. “But it kind of came to the point where I just couldn’t do it, I can’t throw, I just really can’t. They tightened my shoulders up so much, I have no range of motion, there’s nothing there. So softball wasn’t really an option anymore … I played shortstop, and nobody really needs a shortstop who can’t throw.”
Watson ended her basketball profession at Ionia Excessive Faculty as the Bulldogs’ main scorer with 1,529 profession factors. That is the most for any basketball participant, boy or woman, in class historical past, and her document nonetheless stands regardless of the undeniable fact that she missed almost a full season’s value of video games between her junior and senior years together with her shoulder accidents.
In her senior season in 2008, Watson was awarded the illustrious Miss Basketball award from the Basketball Coaches Affiliation of Michigan, which is awarded to the most excellent women basketball participant in the state.
She averaged 19.2 factors, eight.three rebounds, three.four assists and a couple of.6 blocks per recreation in her senior season, a few of which was missed because of her shoulder accidents and most of it performed at lower than 100 %.
Following highschool, Watson selected to simply accept a scholarship to the College of Notre Dame. She was the solely basketball participant underneath Barr to play basketball at the NCAA Division I degree in his 15 seasons of teaching.
The choice to attend Notre Dame, and play beneath Muffet McGraw, a 2017 Basketball Corridor of Fame inductee who, together with her 888 wins, has the ninth most teaching wins in ladies’s school basketball historical past, was a no brainer for Watson.
“It was extremely exciting,” Watson stated. “Obviously, Muffet McGraw is one of the best coaches in women’s basketball history. So it was obviously a great opportunity and ultimately, from a basketball standpoint, one you can’t pass up. And even from an academic standpoint, as well, you can’t beat that.”
Enjoying beneath McGraw was a singular expertise for Watson, and one she certainly gained’t overlook.
“She’s such a fireball of a human and a lot of people don’t see that because they don’t see the practice side,” Watson stated. “But I respect that woman more than anyone I’ve ever met in my life.”
From the confines of rural Ionia County to the massive stage of Notre Dame and Massive East basketball, Watson discovered herself adjusting faster than she anticipated.
“At Notre Dame, women’s basketball is pretty unique,” she stated. “Every game is a sellout pretty much, they absolutely pack the gym. But it honestly wasn’t that massive of a jump because the school is small, it’s only 8,000 undergrads. So it still had a super small community feel, so really the only thing that felt really different was that we had televised games and we were playing in front of 100 times what I was used to playing in front of at Ionia High School.”
Watson performed in all 31 video games in her freshman season at Notre Dame, averaging three.eight factors and a couple of.5 rebounds per contest. Nevertheless, even stepping on the courtroom was a problem for Watson, who had the expertise to play at the Division I degree, however not the shoulders. Her shoulder issues continued to multiply, and she or he finally determined to switch to Grand Valley State College after one season at Notre Dame.
“My body couldn’t take it, it really couldn’t. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I dislocated my shoulder just in that first year,” Watson stated. “We played in, like the real Big East, so basketball was a different story. Women I was playing against were humongous and I just could not, at my position, do it with the shoulders I was dealt. And on top of that, I wanted to play, this was not going to end my career.”
Watson had yet one more shoulder surgical procedure following her freshman season at Notre Dame. She would sit out the following season, per NCAA switch guidelines, which allowed her additional time to rehabilitate her shoulder and get stronger as she moved onto Grand Valley. Regardless of that, she ended up having yet one more shoulder surgical procedure later in her profession with the Lakers.
The 5 shoulder surgical procedures might have had a huge impact in Watson’s profession, however she refused to let that outline her.
“It was more (me being) stubborn than anything, I was so beyond annoyed,” Watson stated. “I was like, ‘No, you were given this skill set, you were meant to play basketball, you’re going to finish something out, no matter how it works.’”
Whereas there have been loads of shows of toughness all through her profession, Barr recalled one particular recreation, the ultimate recreation of Watson’s highschool profession, the place she refused to give up.
“We were in the district final against Portland in her senior year. Her shoulder came out in the third quarter,” Barr stated. “She went to the locker room and one of the local doctors put her shoulder back in for her and she came out and finished the game. She played through a lot of pain throughout those years.”
Of all the accidents she went by way of, Watson wasn’t going to cease enjoying till she was pressured to.
“I played through a lot,” Watson stated. “It was the kind of thing where if I needed to wear a brace to get through, I would wear a brace to get through. I wasn’t going to call my season on my own, it was going to be somebody else saying, ‘You need to stop.’ That’s what happened in my junior year when I had the (two) surgeries. My surgeon was like, ‘OK, you need to stop, you need to do this now, or the surgery I’m going to perform on you is going to be like putting a dinner plate back together with screws — it’s going to be impossible.’ … But it was kind of a thing where as long as my surgeon was letting me do it, I was going to play through it. I was not getting pulled out.”
It’s a marvel Watson made it via 4 years of school basketball after the variety of accidents she endured, although she doesn’t remorse it as she had no wishes to play basketball professionally.
“I was so done (following college). My body did not get me through,” she stated. “I would say my body just wasn’t having it, and there’s really just no money in (professional basketball). It’s honestly not even worth putting your body through all that for the amount of money that you get paid. My body was toast.”
She might by no means throw a softball once more, she might by no means play a pick-up basketball recreation once more, however her impression will perpetually be felt and, now, enshrined at Ionia Excessive Faculty.
“I just think it speaks to the respect that everyone has in Ionia, especially the committee, for how great of an athlete she was,” Barr stated. “I think anytime you have somebody who becomes eligible and is immediately put in tells you there’s a lot of respect for her athletic ability and what she was able to do at our school. She was part of our softball team that made the state semifinals and she was obviously a big part of our only regional championship in girls basketball. So she obviously has a lot of individual accomplishments, but I think she would tell you that the team accomplishments were her most important.”
Watson presently resides in Cincinnati the place she works as a clothes consultant for Underneath Armour.