Two years later, Watson looks to help Lakers

Courtesy Photo / Matt Cashore
Redshirt sophomore Kellie Watson

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Matt Cashore Redshirt sophomore Kellie Watson

Stephanie Deible

The game of basketball is not often associated with a roller coaster, but sophomore forward Kellie Watson’s journey to get back on the court with the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team has had its ups and downs so far.

Coming out of high school in 2008, Watson was named Miss Basketball, an award given annually to the top high school basketball player in Michigan.

After receiving the award, Watson accepted an athletic scholarship to play at the University of Notre Dame, and she sensed her best playing days were ahead of her.

“I was really excited that I had the opportunity to sign with one of the top Division I programs in the country,” she said. “There was really no other reason for me to be anything but excited to start in the summer and see what Division I basketball was really all about.”

In her first season with the Fighting Irish, Watson appeared in all 31 games and was second on the team three-point field goals with 28.

“My freshman year I had great opportunities,” she said. “My whole class had a lot of opportunities to play because there were some injuries to upperclassmen that really opened the window for us.”

With her first season behind her, Watson looked to be a mainstay in South Bend, but an early season knee injury and recurring shoulder injuries, which began in high school, forced her to sit out almost the entirety of her sophomore season.

While Watson was on the mend, she began to evaluate her future and decided transferring to GVSU would be a better path to take.

“The physicality of the Big East was getting to be a lot for my body to handle,” she said. “I already had three shoulder surgeries at that point, and I was just coming off of surgery on my knee. I think I just realized [Notre Dame] wasn’t right, it wasn’t the place that was the best for me.”

Upon arriving at GVSU in 2009, Watson could practice with the Lakers, but NCAA transfer rules prevented her from competing in games until the following season.

Watson suffered another setback when she dislocated her shoulder the day before GVSU took part in its annual season-opening exhibition game at Michigan State University, forcing her take a medical redshirt and sit out the 2010-2011 season.

Watson said the injuries and not being able to go out and compete for two full years was as frustrating beyond words, but all the experiences taught her how much she loved basketball and to appreciate the small things in life.

“You never know when your last game is going to be, you never know when your last play is going to be,” she said. “So you just have to out there and give everything you’ve got all time.”

With all the injuries behind her, Watson’s determination is a welcome sight for the Lakers during the 2011-12 season.

“She’s worked very hard to be able to play still,” said junior guard Lauren Stodola. “She’s gone through so many injuries that could’ve stopped anyone’s career, but she loves the game and just wants to play.”

Despite her playing status being unknown after another shoulder injury this season, the former Gatorade Player of the Year brings a strong work ethic and experience of playing at the Division I.

“She’s played at a very high level and she’s been successful,” said GVSU head coach Janel Burgess “We just ask that she brings a competitive edge and helps improve our team from top to bottom

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