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It's germane to Watson

Maturity a key to BC senior's success

Jermaine Watson says the memories will come flooding back in snapshots. When the Boston College senior guard makes his final appearance at Conte Forum -- along with senior center Nate Doornekamp -- in tonight's Big East contest against Pittsburgh, it will be difficult for Watson not to recall the memories, good and bad.

Watson says he'll reflect on all that he's been through to this point in his life. There was the senior year he enjoyed at Tabor Academy, where he averaged 28.5 points and 5.0 assists per game, earned Gatorade and USA Today Massachusetts Player of the Year honors in 2000-01, and drew the interest of recruiters from BC, Miami, and Georgia Tech.

But there also were trying times on and off the court. There were the times he lost his temper and the physical confrontations with opposing players during AAU games with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, for which Watson was branded a "hothead" by rival coaches.

And early in his life, there was the loss of his father, Darrel Watson, who died of cancer at age 34. Jermaine was 8 at the time. To honor his father's memory, Watson wears a tattoo of a wrought-iron cross on his right shoulder with the words "R.I.P" and "D.Watson," scribed on a red ribbon wrapped around the cross. Watson still has an ache in his heart when he talks about the loss of his father.

"It was definitely very hard for me, because, even to this day, I still have memories of hanging out with him," said Watson, of Dorchester. "Some of my first memories of actually playing basketball were with my father out on the court. I think about him a lot whenever I play. I just hope I've grown into a young man he would be proud of. When I have children, I want to be the type of father he was to me."

Watson looked to his older brother, Tyrone, and uncle, Lenny Durant, a presence at all his BC home games, as father figures. Watson also remembered his first basketball coach, Manny Wilson, who devoted himself to teaching the game to youngsters at the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club before losing his life in the line of duty as a Boston police officer.

"I was really close to him," Watson said. "He kind of took me under his wing, because it was right around the time my father died, and then he ended up dying."

"He's a man now," said Pamela Judge, Watson's mother. "There's no doubt about it. Many people probably thought he was spoiled, but the people on the outside didn't know him. Jermaine's always known that he had a lot of challenges before him, but this experience has truly let him know what he's made of, and he's a man."

Tonight, Watson will try to help BC forge another memorable moment in an unforgettable season as the third-ranked Eagles (23-2 overall, 12-2 Big East) look to clinch at least a tie for the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament March 9-12.

"I haven't had the opportunity to beat Pitt since I've been at Boston College, and so it would be a great opportunity," Watson said, noting how the Panthers have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including the last five in a row. "It's really flown by. I can't believe Senior Night's here already. I guess I'd rather have it go by quick and get here quick, because I'm excited that we're winning almost every night we're stepping on the court. I have no complaints."

Watson could have griped about playing time as a freshman. But he never did.

"I learned my freshman-sophomore year the only way I could get on the court was by playing defense and getting on the backboard, because when I first came in, I was playing behind Troy Bell and Ryan Sidney," Watson said.

"I mean, Troy went to the NBA and Ryan could've gone to the NBA, so it was tough, but that's how I started off. I wasn't going to be outscoring Troy or Ryan, either. It's the small things that Coach [Al] Skinner has a lot of respect for, like sitting down and playing defense and getting on the backboard. And if I was going to get on the court, it was up to me to get involved in that stuff."

And so he did. And when the Eagles went from being a guard-oriented team after the departure of Bell and Sidney into a frontcourt-oriented offense with the arrival of bruising power forward Craig Smith, Watson embraced his new identity as a role-player who came off the bench. He provided instant energy, in-your-face defense, and an occasional clutch free throw.

"There's no question that he's got a competitive spirit and that's what really drives him," Skinner said. "But it was a matter of nurturing that spirit and molding it into a positive to make it work for him, which he's been able to do. And it's a credit to him that he's made those adjustments and was willing to confront those things and make it work for him.

"Again, that's a sign of his maturity."

Another came in the waning moments of Saturday's 70-58 home-court victory over Seton Hall when Watson got entangled with Donald Copeland on an inbounds play. Copeland came out of the scrum and shoved Watson. In his AAU days, Watson might have retaliated, but he raised his arms and backpedaled out of harm's way. Copeland was hit with a personal foul and a technical foul, sending Watson (BC's leading free throw shooter, 83.2 percent) to the line for four foul shots.

Cooler heads prevailed. Watson made all four shots to help BC close out the victory.

"It was sort of deja vu for me watching that," Judge said. "I've seen a lot of that over the years. He knows now how to walk away from that stuff. Now he knows he's going to be placed in situations that will try to push him over the edge and he knows when to walk away.

"He's come full circle, absolutely."

Said Skinner, "I'm happy for him, because I think he can walk in this community and feel like he's represented himself well. He will be remembered in a very positive light when people talk about Jermaine Watson and Boston College basketball."

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