Stephanie Watts is one of the most accomplished players in the history of the Weddington High girls’ basketball program. The two-time all-state and three-time Southern Carolinas Conference player of the year is already the Warriors’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and three-pointers made.
But the North Carolina signee – and consensus five-star recruit – is a self-proclaimed “gym rat,” just as hungry as ever to keep improving her game.
“Stephanie is one of those rare players that never gets tired of basketball,” Weddington coach Ryun Cook said. “She goes from practice to practice (high school and AAU) and then goes to the gym to shoot afterward. In fact, she’s probably playing basketball right now somewhere. She just loves the game and it’s a part of her every day routine. But after all she’s accomplished, you wouldn’t know it, because she still works as hard as ever. It’s really refreshing to see someone who has accomplished so much is still so down to earth.”
Watts’ father, Stephen, played at Long Island University and older brother, Brandon, was a former Weddington standout and is averaging 20 points per game as a freshman at UNC Pembroke. She feels like she can never stop working on her game.
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“You can never stop getting better as a player,” said Watts, who with 1,749 points should challenge the Union County career scoring mark of 2,161 points held by former Parkwood High and Georgia Southern University standout Tiffany Brown. “There is always someone out there who is better than you or working harder. So I always feel like I need to work on something. For me, the more basketball the better. I’ve had a basketball in my hand since I could walk and it’s always been a big part of my life. I really can’t get enough basketball.”
While it would be hard to top what Watts has done at Weddington, the 5-foot-10 senior is already off to an ever better start this season, averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, 5.3 steals and three blocks per contest through three games.
Watts, 17, had 31 points, 10 rebounds,10 assists, six steals and four blocks in the Warriors’ season opening win at home versus Parkwood.
But at this point in her career, Watts says the only statistic that she is worried about is winning.
Watts helped the Warriors improve from 13 wins her freshman season, to 21 wins her sophomore campaign, and to a 25-5 record a year ago, including the SCC title. Watts and Weddington are looking to go even deeper than their 3A West Regional semifinal run in March, which ended with a 50-45 loss to Pisgah High.
“Stephanie have never been about individual goals, but her big focus is on what this team can do in the state playoffs,” Cook said. “After getting to Greensboro (3A West Regional) and a few minutes away from going to the Final 4, I think this entire team wants another opportunity to get there. Stephanie loves Weddington and this team and she wants to help takes us as far as we can go.”
Watts says close losses in the past two playoff runs (North Iredell in the second round in 2013) will help fuel this team.
“To fall just short in two games that you felt like we’re winnable is really tough, but I think we have learned from those losses,” Watts said. “Our ultimate goal is to win it all, but we know that is not something that will be easy.”
Weddington returns nearly their entire core from a season ago, with junior guard Taylor Schuster joining Watts in the backcourt, and senior Amarianne Mitchell, junior Molly Mann, and sophomore Remi Roberts rounding out an experienced and talented starting lineup.
Watts’ versatility – she can play any position on the court – gives Cook the flexibility to move players around when needed.
While Watts will be sure to fill the stat sheet each game, she has also been working on her leadership.
“I was a bit timid as far as being a verbal leader in the past, but I’ve worked on that and gotten better over the years,” Watts said. “I’ve learned being a leader is not just what you say, it’s what you do on the court. I’ve learned a lot about getting my teammates involved in the game and still being able to score and make plays to help us win games.”
While Watts’ legacy is already etched in the Weddington High history books, Cook believes she could be just starting to realize her full potential.
“It’s really intriguing to think about what Stephanie will be about to do at Carolina without seeing a constant double or triple team, when she is surrounded by all that talent,” Cook said. “I can’t wait to watch her play when she is in more one on one situations. It’s hard to say just how good she can be. But nothing she accomplishes will surprise me.”