Tuesday night, Weddington High girls’ basketball star Stephanie Watts may become the all-time leading scorer in Union County history.
Watts, a McDonald’s All-American nominee committed to North Carolina, has scored 2,150 points. The county record is 2,161, set by Parkwood’s Tiffany Brown in 2004.
Weddington (15-1) will host county rival Piedmont (9-7) at 6:30 p.m.
How good is 2,000 points? Former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse scored 2,039 in his high school career at Kinston and Oak Hill (Va.). Reggie Bullock, another former North Carolina Tar Heel and NBA player, scored 2,001 in his.
Depending on how far the Warriors (15-1) advance in the N.C. 3A playoffs, Watts could be only about halfway through her senior season.
At her current pace of 30 points, nine rebounds, six assists and five steals per game, well, she could crack the top 10 of all-time N.C. girls’ scorers before she’s finished. (ESPN has Watts as the nation’s No. 24 overall recruit. Only one N.C. player is ranked higher – Myers Park point guard Aliyah Mayzck is No. 18.)
“I never would’ve thought I could get here coming into Weddington as a freshman,” Watts said. “It’s really cool. I think it’s really exciting. There’s been a lot of great players in Union County, and to have the Union County record would be kind of cool.”
Watts, a 5-foot-9 guard, grew up playing basketball with her brothers, Douglas Whitfield and Brandon Watts, now a freshman at UNC Pembroke. She started taking the game seriously in third grade and didn’t mind spending Friday nights in the gym in Westchester, N.Y., while her friends were at birthday parties, movies and football games.
She kept that work ethic when the family moved to the Weddington area when Watts was in fifth grade. By seventh grade, her future high school coach already knew her name.
“When I got the job at Weddington,” Ryun Cook said, “Stephanie was in seventh grade, and she was already being talked about. She was a household name in this community.
“Her reputation preceded her. And I remember when we started working out the summer before her freshman year, I was a little nervous. We needed a scorer, and she wasn’t looking to score a lot in the initial practice.”
That changed at team camp on the campus of UNC Charlotte. Watts led the team in scoring, and she hasn’t stopped. She averaged 18.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.8 steals as a freshman. She was Southern Carolina Player of the Year.
As a sophomore, she averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and repeated as league player of the year.
As a junior, she averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals, and she won league player of the year again.
This season, Watts’ 30.3 points per game rank No. 11 nationally.
“I think she’s really good,” said Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson, whose nationally ranked team beat Weddington 76-55 at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge in November. “She’s a very skilled player who can really shoot it, and she just never seems to get frustrated or frazzled.
“When things don’t go well, she keeps focused and poised. I think she’ll be a really good college player.”
Watts has three of the four recorded girls’ quadruple-doubles (double figures in four categories) in N.C. history. She’s got a career-high of 50 points, and she’s fourth all-time in N.C. history for made 3-point shots. She’s 10 makes from second.
Barring an injury, she’ll likely make the N.C. Associated Press all-state team for a third straight year, which is rare for a boys’ or girls’ player.
“To have a player of her caliber is sometimes once in a lifetime,” Cook said. “But for that kid to be so humble and that good of a teammate and so coachable, it’s hard to imagine that whole package that is there. She’s a good student, a good person. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Watts, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average, plays tall, upright and has a wicked dribbling ability.
Her best move is a sweeping left-to-right behind the back dribble that she can do in full stride, a little like NBA star Stephen Curry, and she can perform the move to slip past a defender, and in the same motion – as the defender scrambles to catch up – launch a sure 3-point shot.
That shot is something she works on every day. She tries to get 800 attempts every day, made easier now that she’s found a friend who has a shooting machine at home. She visits at least four times a week.
“Growing up,” she said, “I missed a lot of stuff and my dad said, ‘You have to miss out, but think about the future.’
“So I would miss my friends hanging out on a Friday night. I’ll be in the gym while everyone else is at the football game. But look where it’s gotten me, all the work. I don’t regret it at all.”