Contributed photo Former — University of Washington men’s basketball standout Donald Watts will lead two skills clinics at South Whidbey High School on March 19 and March 26.

Former UW basketball standout to lead two clinics at SWHS

Learning to love the “process” is what helped Donald Watts achieve what he did in the sport of basketball.

Now he’s trying to pass that knowledge onto others.

Watts, a former University of Washington men’s basketball standout in the mid to late ’90s, is holding two skills clinics on March 19 and March 26 at South Whidbey High School. The clinics are open to boys and girls, grades 3-12.

“The primary goal is to just create an environment where the kids can learn and grow, and really learn to love not just the game of basketball, but the growth process and how to improve at the game,” Watts said.

Watts, the son of Seattle Supersonic Donald “Slick” Watts, had a strong prep and collegiate basketball career. He was regarded as one of the top high school basketball players in Washington’s history and later helped the Huskies basketball team reach the 1998 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen. Watts, whose career was eventually slowed by chronic fatigue syndrome, went on to play professionally in South America, Belgium, CBA and the NBADL.

Success wasn’t easy for Watts at an early age; he was only an average player in middle school, but it was the time, energy and positive attitude that he put into the sport in the offseason that helped him progress. The following year at Lake Washington High School, he became the only freshman in the state to start on varsity. Watts said his success could be attributed to the way he felt about the work he was doing.

“Everything I did was from that foundation,” Watts said.

Skills such as ball handling, finishing around the rim, shooting and one-on-one skills will be points of emphasis for all. For the younger players, the focus will be on developing the necessary skills to be successful at the sport and not necessarily replicating game-like environments. While there will be a competitive aspect with the grades 3-7 group, it will be toned down to allow for the building of fundamental physical skills and mental capacity. He also said the young players’ skill levels will be more quantitative, so that any weaknesses can be addressed.

Watts said this method helps prevent players from being thrown into games without the proper skills to succeed, which he believes can hurt a player more than it can help.

“Games can be stressful,” Watts said. “The worst thing you can do is put somebody in a situation where they don’t have the skills required to be successful.”

The focus will shift from fundamental skills to a competitive atmosphere for those in grades 8-12. While younger players might take 50 left-handed layups to assess their skills, the older players will attempt left-handed layups with a defender guarding their approach. It’s these types of situations that will help players not only grow comfortable in a competitive environment, but also build muscle memory.

“When you get into a game situation, things have to be instinctive,” Watts said.

Watts came at the invitation of Falcon head boys basketball coach Mike Washington, who arranged a similar clinic with the former Husky star when he coached Oak Harbor’s boys hoops team. It will be Watts’ second trip to South Whidbey following a clinic he led with high school players in February.

Washington said that the more kids that signup, the more Watts will return to lead clinics. Washington is hopeful that Watts will eventually come to South Whidbey once or twice a month to work with the players, which will help build their skill sets so that they can hit the ground running when they eventually play for Washington.

“It’s teaching them to be basketball players,” Washington said. “If it were to work out that way, he’s coming here consistently in the offseason. By the time they get to me, it’s less work for me.”

A single clinic costs $45 while both clinics cost $80. To register, visit https://wattsbasketball.sites.zenplan

Contact andrea@wattsbas with questions.

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