NUTLEY – A player such as Blair Watson comes once in a generation; maybe a lifetime.
Watson, a senior 6-foot-1, unquestionably had a terrific girls’ basketball career at Nutley High School, becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer for both boys’ and girls’ basketball.
Watson, a McDonald’s All-American, finished her career with 2,127 points. She averaged 24.65 points a game in leading the Lady Raiders to a stellar 19-8 record this season.
Watson is the Worrall Media All-Area Player of the Year for the third straight season.
NHS head coach Larry Mitschow said it was a thrill to coach Watson.
“What can I say? It’s every coach’s dream to coach a player of her ability,” Mitschow said. “You can do so many more things as a coach when you have a player of Blair’s talent.
“In my opinion, she is the greatest athlete to come out of Nutley High School.”
Mitschow recalled how Watson developed as a player.
“Watching her develop the past four years, both as a player and as a person, has been very rewarding for me. She went from a shy, skinny freshman to our leader, on and off the court. She took a team this year; being the only senior, and led them to 19 wins. She has broken every basketball record imaginable at NHS, and we are going to miss her tremendously.”
Watson last fall signed to play at the University of Maryland on a basketball scholarship. Watson also is scheduled to play in the annual McDonald’s All-American Game on March 30 at the United Center in Chicago.
“I am going to enjoy watching her play in Chicago, at the McDonald’s All-American Game, as well as the next four years at Maryland,” Mitschow said.
The Raiders this season were young, with Watson and just one junior in Jen Callaghan, after they won state North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 tournament championship the previous season.
“Having only one senior and junior on the roster, we didn’t know what to expect,” Mitschow said. “Playing in a tough division (Super Essex Conference-American Division) and county, our goal was to play well leading up to the state tournament, and hopefully make a run like we did last year.
“Although we were playing our best basketball at the right time, we fell to West Morris (in the state North 2, Group 3 tournament quarterfinals). We felt going in we had a good chance to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t play a very good game.”
Nevertheless, Mitschow was quite pleased with his team’s season.
“We had some good wins this year, including a double-overtime thriller over Shabazz, and also beat Montclair for the first time in a while. Our first round state game was also a barnburner, as we defeated Cranford, 73-67.”
Though he will miss Watson, Mitschow is looking forward to next season. Among some of the other key players this season were freshmen guards Rebecca Granata and Courtney Wilde; freshman forwards Alaina Feaster and Mackenzie Moraski; and sophomore forwards Sydney Kunz and Giavanna Modica.
“It’s going to be strange playing without Blair Watson,” he said. “In my four years coaching at NHS, I have always been able to count on her being there for us. We will be a very young team, but hopefully with some work put in over the summer, we can be competitive. I think we have enough young talent to win some games, and hopefully surprise some people come tournament time.”