Brandon and Stephanie Watts have had a basketball in their hands since they first could walk. They’ve devoted their lives to practicing the game year-round, on AAU teams, school teams, travel teams and everything in between. When they’re not practicing with an organized team, there’s a pretty solid chance that they’re at Carolina Courts putting up a countless number of shots under the direction of their father and former Long Island University (N.Y.) basketball star, Stephen Watts.
It’s that kind of dedication that’s paying off for the Watts. Brandon, now a senior at Weddington, leads the Warriors’ boys team averaging 14.4 points, 3.1 assists, 2.7 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. Stephanie, a junior and UNC commit, leads the Warriors’ girls team in points (21.1), rebounds (10.3), steals (5.5), assists (4.7) and blocks (2.6) and they both shoot 49 percent from the field. It’s their undeniable talent that has catapulted the Warriors to the top of the Southern Carolinas conference standings where both teams sit in first place – the girls are 18-3 overall with an unblemished 7-0 conference record while the boys are 19-2 overall and 6-1 in league play.
And for the Watts siblings, it’s clear they wouldn’t be having their current success if it weren’t for each other.
“Growing up, we were always competitive with each other and constantly trying to make each other better,” Stephanie said. “Even watching him now, I constantly learn new things. (Brandon) has a nice spin move to the basket so I go home and try to work on that. He’s always been there to help me get better and practicing with him makes me so much better because playing with boys is a lot more intense than playing with girls.”
“When we were younger, it was fun because we always got along and had something to do together through basketball,” Brandon said. “It’s always been a family thing for us. Playing Stephanie is just really fun and I always pick up and learn different things from what she does. She’s so talented. We both learn from each other and keep getting better that way.”
Stephanie, who committed to play at the University of North Carolina before her junior season tipped off, knew her statewide recognition on the court would put a target on her back as teams looked to limit her ability to get to the basket. But having a 6-foot-5, 170-pound older brother to practice with every day goes a long way and, despite being double- and triple-teamed nearly every game, Stephanie is three wins away from leading the Warriors’ to their best record in school history.
The Warrior girls sealed their fate as probable conference champions with two big wins over Anson last month – a team that is 15-3 on the year. Stephanie put up 21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, five steals and one block to contribute to the 51-42 win when the rivals met for the first time on Jan. 17. Stephanie outdid her previous performance when the two teams met a week later, shooting 55 percent from the field to contribute 29 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists in the 50-49 nail biter.
“Beating Anson twice was huge for us,” she said. “It’s not 100 percent yet because we still have to play the games, but I think it secured us the conference championship in our minds. Anson was the next best team besides us, so for us to beat them – it was big. One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to win the conference and I think we can do that now that we’ve won twice against them.”
When Stephanie comes off the court after a game, she said there’s nothing better than getting to watch her brother lead the Warriors’ boys’ team. The Warriors, who suffered a tough three-point loss to conference-rival Piedmont on Feb. 4, are ranked third in the state amongst 3A schools according to maxpreps.com and are three games away from securing a conference title alongside the girls’ team.
And though Brandon is setting the pace for the Warriors in nearly every statistical category, he’s got more than enough help with a deep roster loaded with talent. Alongside sharp-shooting Jordan Barber, Blake Waud, Demonta Oates, Chris Trevisan, Jordan Sharpe and Mason Osepchuk who each average over six points per game, Watts knows that he and his teammates have what it takes to go all the way.
“It’s hard to see all the way to a state title game from here but (it’s) definitely on our minds,” Brandon said. “But right now, we’re just taking it one game at a time and focusing on the next game that we have coming up. If we keep that up, we’re going to end up with a great season and there’s no way we can mess up now with that focus.”
Until the Feb. 4 loss to Piedmont, the Warriors were on a 17-win streak and proved just how deadly they could be on the road at Anson on Jan. 31. The Warriors had five double-digit scorers in Trevisan (23), Waud (20), Barber (20), Watts (14) and Oats (11) while dropping 103 points on the Bearcats and breaking the school record for points in a game.
“We were just going out there and playing our game,” Brandon said regarding the Warriors’ dominating win over Anson. “We found ourselves with the opportunity to get a lot of easy baskets early in the game and we finished with 37 points in just the first quarter. We kept up the pace from there and didn’t look back.
“To keep that momentum going, I don’t think we have to do anything different. We just have to keep playing the way that we’ve been playing. I realized at the beginning of the year that we had something special and a lot of talent, but there’s no way to predict that we’d be where we are. It’s a great feeling.”
With Brandon and Stephanie leading both Warrior teams through the thick of conference play, it’s likely they’ll continue their runs in the postseason and be among the favorites in the 3A class. And while they both want wins for their individual teams, the Watts want each other to be just as successful.
“I love going to Brandon’s games and I can hear him cheering for me at my games,” Stephanie said. “This has been the best season that Weddington has ever been off to for both teams and it’s so exciting. I cheer so hard for the boys and they do the same for us. We’re hoping we can go as far as we can.”