Morgan Park point guard Marcus Watson can pinpoint the moment during the Nike EYBL tournament when he believes his game took the next step: His Mustang backcourt mate Adam Miller fouled out.
“Everyone was looking to me, so I put my head up and turned it up,” Watson said. “I said, ‘We got to get back in the game.’ We were losing by 12. We brought the team back. Everything I worked on came together.”
Watson, who was playing with the Mac Irvin Fire during the summer, drew interest from mid-major colleges after his play turned heads.
During the Nike tournament, Watson, who committed to Wake Forest last month, had one game with 22 assists.
“I wasn’t really looking to score in that game,” he said. “Adam was hot that game and the team contributed. That was a really good game.”
Watson’s summer league performance also elevated him among the standout Mustang point guards.
He wants to follow in the footsteps of Mustang stars Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois), Charlie Moore (DePaul), Jarrin Randall (Davenport), Marcus LoVett (St. John’s), Markee Williams (Robert Morris) and Billy Garrett (DePaul and Élan Chalon).
“It feels good to be right up there with those guys,” Watson said. “It’s really good company to be with.
“When I was in eighth grade, I’d go to some of the practices and play with Charlie Moore, Markee and Billy. Being seen at a young age inspired me to come to Morgan Park.”
Mustangs coach Nick Irvin echoes Watson’s sentiments regarding his point guard predecessors.
As a freshman, Watson helped the Mustangs win the 2017 Class 3A championship when he started in place of an injured Dosunmu.
“He’s right there,” Irvin said. “From Day 1, I thought Marcus was a high-major point guard. Honestly, [he] had to figure things out. How to get everyone the ball when they need it and get everyone in the right situation.
“Once he figured that out, sky’s the limit.”
Watson wanted to improve his game after the Mustangs’ stunning loss to rival Bogan in last season’s Class 3A sectional championship game. He has a vivid memory of the game in which he had 24 points and six rebounds. He says the team was reeling from the death of Louise Irvin, the mother of Nick Irvin.
“I knew it was over when [Bogan] hit those free throws,” Watson said. “Then everything went black. Then I saw people cheering and celebrating and little kids crying for Morgan Park.
“We felt like we let them down. This year, we’re coming out and taking over everything.”
Watson, along with Miller, are expected to lead the Mustangs to another state title.
He says he and Miller have a “bond” that helps them have an on-court advantage.
“Me knowing he was coming to Morgan Park, that bond got even closer,” Watson said. “It’s fun playing with him. He’s where I want to be in terms of being one of the top players in the country.
“We both feed off each other.”
Watson knows the Mustangs are going to get every team’s best game because they are viewed as one of the Public League’s best teams.
And one of those teams, Whitney Young, is the Mustangs’ first opponent of the 2019-20 season. Young’s star player, guard D.J. Steward, experienced a similar summer trajectory to Watson’s.
Steward, as a freshman phenom at Fenwick, came up short against the Mustangs in the 2017 3A state title game.
“We’re going to have to feed off that and do what we do,” Watson said. “We’re going to fight every night because we are still feeling the pain from last season. It was a good experience; we won’t let that happen again.”