Team Watson ready to build off impressive debut

Week one of the Drew League is a wild card. Some players are still overseas or unable to participate because of contract restrictions. Teams are still working to get into a rhythm because it’s their first time playing together on the court. When you factor in new talent, new coaches and especially new teams, games become unpredictable, especially during opening week.

To tip-off its 45th season, the Drew welcomed in eight new teams to its exclusive league of 26. Nationwide Souljas (formerly N.W.A.), Hoops Legends, Black Pearls Elite, Optimus, Young Legends, Spider-Webb, Prodigy and Team Watson all made their debuts this past weekend. As a unit, they went 2-6 and, despite the overall losing record for debut teams, one win did draw attention from many Drew League fans.

In the second game of Sunday’s slate, Team Watson matched up against Problems. With a quick analysis of each team, it was almost obvious who would walk away from this game with a win. Problems, formerly known as Houdini’s Problems, made it to the Division Championship last season and had returned most of their starting roster. (Problems’ forward Darnell Martin did not play in the opener.) In contrast, Team Watson had a roster of newcomers, guys who had just finished their collegiate career or had just started the professional career overseas, and most importantly a roster of guys who had never played together.

After the first quarter, things began to look shaky for Problems. While both teams ended up shooting 50 percent from the field and Problems even ended up beating Team Watson on the boards by 10, Problems never found an answer to Team Watson’s electrifying shooting from behind the arc. Team Watson shot 50 percent from the 3-point line in comparison to Problems, who shot 11 percent. Leland King II, a recent UC Santa Barbara grad, led the way for Team Watson with 27 points — 12 of which were from the three.

“I mean, that’s what I do,” says King. In college, I averaged a double-double, so I didn’t expect anything less playing here.”

That same expectation had not been set by fans for Team Watson. Aside from the players on Team Watson, one of the few people not stunned by Team Watson’s win was Sam Watson, the team’s owner.

“It was a close game all the way through, but we pulled it out and I’m happy for my guys,” says Watson, a sports and entertainment advisor who has worked with the likes of Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather. “I know how an owner feels when a real team wins. It was really good.”

Watson, a South Central native, alongside his two sons, make up Team Watson Boxing Club, a boxing facility where boxers of all skill sets come and train. For years, Watson and his team have been working to get into the Drew League and have fallen short until this season.

“It took us five years to get into the league. We got together with some people who knew about the Drew League. Then we got our head coach, Dart [Stamps] … so it was a perfect situation,” says Watson. “In these days with all this stuff going on around the world, we wanted to come and do some nice things with our little money, and come in the community and play ball and give some kids a shot to go overseas or a shot for the pros or whatever they need.”

After week one’s stunning win over Problems, many people will have their eye out for Team Watson going forward. This week, they are set to play a seasoned LA Loop team who is coming off of a tough 78-72 loss to the Blazers. While many teams may enjoy flying under the radar, Team Watson is embracing its newfound notoriety.

“We all compete so at the end of the day we all come in here to get a job and move on to the next level so as long as we compete we’ll be good,” says DJ Ursery, a starter for Team Watson, who pitched in 15 points. “If they’re a top team and we just beat them, there’ll be a target on our back but we just have to stay focused and keep coming out and competing every week.”

Week two will be a true test of Team Watson’s skill set. There are many factors such as youth and roster that could have potentially factored into Team Watson’s win, but as the motto goes: No Excuse, Just Produce. Going 2-0 against notable and respectable teams in the Drew could put Team Watson on the radar and show if they’re the real deal Holyfield or just another fluke.