MU’s Watson had a long road to graduation
HUNTINGTON - Rondale Watson hit a roadblock midway though his college career.
The Lewisburg, West Virginia, native enrolled at Marshall University in June 2016 after leaving Wake Forest University and waited 18 months to regain eligibility for the Thundering Herd men’s basketball team because of NCAA transfer rules and an academic issue. Watson, a 6-foot-4 guard, was forced to sit out the first 11 games of the 2017-18 season.
Last weekend, he cleared the hurdle and became a college graduate while Marshall was away from home for a Saturday game at the University of Akron.
“My family stayed with me the whole way and coach Dan (Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni) has always believed in me,” Watson said. “He definitely could have given up on me when I had that situation. I’m just thankful for the support I had. I probably couldn’t have done it without them.”
Watson received a degree in communications with a minor in sports management.
Marshall had more than 1,200 students graduate Saturday during a Winter Commencement ceremony in Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Watson is the first college graduate in his family after two years at Wake Forest, more than a year idle and finishing with two years at Marshall.
He’s the son of Candice Brown and Wilson Watson Jr. Watson said his sister, Maresha, was the closest to becoming a college graduate before him, but she didn’t finish and is a registered nurse.
“It’s been a long five years, I’d say,” Watson said.
Nobody knows what his future might be, Watson said he’ll probably go to graduate school in the spring semester because he needs credit hours to stay eligible for the Herd. He’s hoping to continue playing after this season.
D’Antoni said having Watson complete a degree was a great feeling.
“I think it shows that he’s maturing as a person, that’s he’s taking care of his responsibilities that probably weren’t a priority early in his life but now have become a priority,” D’Antoni said. “It will hold him well once he leave here.”
Watson, 22, started the last four games for Marshall (7-4) after D’Antoni made the switch to a smaller lineup to get more quickness and rhythm offensively. Watson’s playing 20.8 minutes per game with averages of 6.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He had a double-double game Dec. 8 against the University of Toledo with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
He’s not a 1,000-point career scorer like senior teammates Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, but provides much more in the areas of tenacity, toughness and a will to win. Anytime Watson is on the court the energy automatically picks up, Elmore said.
“He doesn’t care about stats,” Elmore said. “That’s one of the guys you need to have on the team. He plays his heart out every possession. He talks a little junk here and there. He gets on his own teammates, holds guys accountable. You need to have that on a team. He’s become a leader on this team. A lot of guys look up to him. So anytime he’s on the court I feel like we’re a better team.
“What he brings to the team a lot of people don’t even see it. He just brings a lot of intangibles to the table and he’s been phenomenal for us.”
Marshall successfully began a stretch of five away games Saturday at Akron, 75-74. It wasn’t one of Watson’s better days because he played for only 13 minutes after being called for two personal fouls early in the game and being replaced. He ended the day with only two points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and three fouls.
Ultimately, he just wants to win, Watson said.
The road gets more difficult Saturday when Marshall visits Texas A&M, an NCAA Sweet 16 team last season from the Southeastern Conference that went into Wednesday night home game with Valparaiso at 4-4. Then it’s more than a week off before a Dec. 31 road game at No. 5 Virginia, now 9-0.
Marshall (7-4) at Texas A&M (4-4)
2 p.m. Saturday
College Station, Texas
TV: SEC Network Plus
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM