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Anton Watson is Nationally Underrated

Much more than just the Robin to Drew Timme’s Batman in the frontcourt.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

When thinking of Gonzaga’s threats, obviously Drew Timme immediately comes into your mind. Then Julian Strawther pops in. But what about Anton Watson? The nation needs to understand the massive impact on all aspects of the game that the senior from Spokane makes for the Zags on a regular basis.

Looking back on where Anton’s game was at as a freshman (adjusting to the intensity of college play, dealing with a shoulder injury that ended his season) and seeing how much he’s matured now has been amazing to witness. At 6’8”, the 222-pound big body is having his best season with the Zags, just stuffing the stat sheet. 10.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.8 SPG (leads the team in that last category). Those are all career-high numbers as well. Not to mention his staggering 58.0 FG% and gradually improving three-point shooting.

And this is all done in 21 starts and 28.0 MPG. He has had foul issues in certain games that have caused him to sit on the bench but for the most part, Watson seems to always be out on the floor and making some sort of impact on both ends of the floor.

Watson’s a true, calm/cool/collected, and loyal Zag. He stuck through the worst of his early years with the injuries and minutes being hard to come by in the early years but look at him now. He’s the complete package with his now above-average basketball IQ.

The local kid always looks to be moving without the ball and cutting toward the rim (especially around the baseline) cause we all know he wants to throw down that emphatic hammer of his.

He’s fast on the break after crashing the glass which is extremely impressive for a guy of his size and strength. Runs the floor with control and speed like a bullet train.

Anton is a slept-on facilitator, especially when feeding around the rim. That high-low action between him and Drew Timme always has fans gushing with happiness. That’s one of the more underrated big-man duos in all of college basketball cause of their ability to know where each other are on the court at all times. Those two always seem to be on the same page.

Watson is a grinder, does a ton the dirty work everywhere on the court. He uses his strong upper body to control the glass. His speedy footwork down on the low block when a quick score is needed or fast adjustment around the rim for defensive protection comes quite in handy.

As fans saw at Pacific recently, Anton Watson was cleaning up the glass all night with Windex. I don’t think the Zags come out with that W if it wasn’t for his rebounding effort (13 boards to go along with his 16 points, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal) against the Tigers who decided to go with their small lineup. Watson’s locked-in performance really helped focus the team and get the group back on track during major slumps.

Anton has had to work hard to get where he is at this point in his collegiate basketball career but with the way he jumps passings routes and doesn’t allow any distance between himself and his opponent to the bucket on the opposite end, Anton could have also made a fantastic football player. Just wanted to throw that out there. It’s fun to think about.

He offers so much to the table thanks to his veteran leadership and experience. The Gonzaga program has groomed him into a true professional both on and off the court.

What if Anton Watson were to use that extra year of eligibility next season? Think of the continuing increase in confidence and skills he could make in just one more season under the tutelage of Mark Few.

You may look at him as an all-time glue guy right now but he won’t be for long if he were to return in 2023-2024. Anton Watson could be considered right up there as one of the top returning upperclassmen in the entire country. Along with that, his development into the NBA game would be shooting through the roof.

Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho