That’s A Wrap: Christian Watford

  • 03/31/2010 10:06 pm in

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - First Round

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to um, wrap up the 2009-10 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on.

Final Stats (31 games): 12.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 37.5% FG, 80% FT, 19 blocks, 16 steals.

Considered one of the prized pieces of Indiana’s 2009 recruiting class, Christian Watford stepped onto campus in Bloomington with the expectation he’d make significant contributions from the get-go.

In fact, Tom Crean introduced him to fans at Hoosier Hysteria as the kid from Birmingham who had turned down the likes of Kentucky, Louisville and Memphis to be a Hoosier. This, as you would expect, drew quite a round of applause from the Assembly Hall faithful.

And for the most part, Watford lived up the expectations that come along with being a consensus top-50 recruit.

He was third on the team in scoring. He led the team in rebounding, despite being asked to play out of position for most of the season. He hit free throws at a remarkably efficient rate for a 6-9 freshman (116 of 145). He turned in one of his best performances in Indiana’s most impressive win of the season over Pittsburgh, scoring 18 points (12 of 15 FT) and grabbing five rebounds. He was named one of the five best freshman in the Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

But like most freshmen, Watford also had his share of struggles.

There was the game at Wisconsin in which Crean left Watford on the floor during a blowout to teach him that he wasn’t really tired. Crean believed that Watford needed to learn to play through fatigue.

And although he did average 12 points per contest, he shot just 37.5 percent from the field despite taking a majority of his shots in or around the paint. The low shooting percentage, coupled with IU’s conference record, probably gave Illinois’ D.J. Richardson (coaches) and Northwestern’s Drew Crawford (media) the nod for freshman of the year in the conference. Watford seemed to have problems adjusting, at times, to the physical rigors of the Big Ten, evidenced by the frequency his shots were blocked.

The Bottom Line: Given his physical attributes and skill level, the future is obviously bright for Watford. He could, one day, play at the next level. His biggest area for improvement, like much of the Indiana roster, is getting stronger so he’s able to finish plays at the basket consistently. He’s probably more of a three than a four, but given the current frontcourt situation and his ability to rebound, he’ll likely continue to see the majority of his minutes at the four. That said, look for him to be a more rounded player, capable of shooting a much higher percentage of the field, as a sophomore.

Filed to:

  • I think Watford is a huge conerstone in our rebuilding process. I just think he needs too play the small forward. He needs to be complimented by a power forward and a center. Playing Watford at the PF hurts us. Playing Cwat at the SF gives a great size advantage. It seems as if crean really is starting to understand that we need size.

  • HoosierChan77

    Wat and Creek are going to be a special combo for years to come..That is a solid base. After Wat adds 10-15lbs he will be a double-double machine, AKA Allan Henderson.

  • marsh21

    Great asset for IU but this kid must play the 3 position to reach his full potential! His 12 points per game was difficult to get because most of the points were down low in the paint against the monsters. With that smooth stroke he needs to not force the ball in the paint and find that mid-range game. He also needs to learn to create space to get a clean shot off. It seemed for the most of the year he was instructed to force the ball in the paint which just caused one block after another.

    Crean please find a 4 and get CW into that 3 please!!!

  • Taskmaster75

    See Elston, Derek.

  • marsh21

    Yes, I saw Derek all year but it didn't do anything for CW playing the four position. If we don't have a center then it will take two 4's to ease the pressure on Watford.

    Derek had two good games at the end of the year but it's going to take a little more than that for cw to play the 3 consistantly.

  • BaseballBuc

    I love C Wat!

  • Taskmaster75

    Well, I see Bawa taking over the 5 spot, so I guess I am a bit optimistic on him. The thought of having a Hasheem Thabeet type guy is awesome.

  • gocubsgo16

    I hope Bawa can improve alot, and is able to take over the 5, with elston and capo sharing the 4 spot, and moving CWAT to the 3, then with creek and VJ3 that's a tough young team!!

  • Indiana_Knight

    That would certainly make my projections for next year quite a bit rosier. As another poster mentioned, if Watford is at the 3, and Capo/Elston split the 4, then suddenly IU has a lineup with great size and length.

    Either way, I think the future is tremendously bright for this kid. He has a great frame, is smooth with the basketball in his hand and can shoot from all over the floor. The 3 would be best but I think he'd at least be a lot less uncomfortable playing the 4 again in his second season. I need to pick up a Watford jersey, I just love this kid's skill set.

  • So_Cal_Hoosier

    Watford just needs to put on some weight and spend a lot of time in the weight room this summer, and I think his stats will only improve, especially his points in the paint.

    Nom nom nom protein

  • IUWiseGuy

    Here is a little info that I’m sure will interest the masses here at ITH:

    Watford and Rivers DO NOT get along, and there are whispers that CW is considering transferring. This is also causing a divide on the team between cliques.

    This sure would be a kick-in-the-nuts, especially considering our recent recruiting missteps.

    And NO, this is not an April Fools joke…wait and see…

  • Wish

    Where can I sign this petition? About halfway through the season I started feeling bad for the kid because he was getting beat up by guys almost twice his size (not really) while playing out of position. Then I remembered that Crean did the same thing the year before with Nick Williams so I began to hope that CW wouldn't transfer.

    I admire his heart and tenacity but he's going to end up being most effective at the 3 spot. He's a very good player, nothing but good things to say about the kid.

  • JerryCT

    I guess I donot undestand all the comments over the season and now that conclude CW is playing … ” out of position”.

    What exactly would his position be in the 3 guard offense we run ? Would he take the point guard position ? ….No. SO he must take the place of Jones or Creek…………..No. So what are people talking about in the context of CTC's offense ? With the addition of VO and Sheehey and return of Roth , again, what should his position be ?

    Lets say he played for Nova or Butller. What is his position in their offense ?

    At 6'9″ and a great rebounder in HS he is playing right where should be.

    Let's face it , he is a very good player and needs alot of work to be unstoppable near the basket or to put it on floor and get his own shot away from the basket. He is not yet skilled as a 3 and not yet powerful enough to be a good 4.

    Still, I asked the managers in PR early in the season who the best player on the team is and they each said w no hesitation “CW”.

  • I think I'm the only fan that thinks Watford at the 3 is worse than Watford at the 4. The only upside I see to Watford at the 3 is that it probably gets Elston more time, which I agree is very important.

    But, take Elston out of the discussion, and I think Watford is more suited and can better utilize mismatches at the 4. His advantage is that he's a 6'9″ player that can shoot, penetrate and handle the ball a bit. Put a more athletic small forward on him and he loses his ability to penetrate and handle the ball to an extent, as well as his ability to create space for that smooth jumper. I guess the benefit is that he can better shoot over a small forward, so I get that point.

    I think the issue is that he's not a post-up/on the block 4. He's a space the floor pf, similar to Rashard Lewis in the NBA. Put a less athletic big on Watford who isn't used to defending the perimeter and Watford can take him off the dribble to draw fouls and get in the lane, as well as create for others. IMO it would also allow him to create space for his jumper more easily, because a bigger guy defending him is less likely to crowd him on the perimeter.

    Just my two cents, and like I said, we need Watford and Elston on the floor, so that probably does mean Watford at the 3.

  • MillaRed

    Jerry, in terms of the “out of position” comments I think it applies more to where CW is in his experience level more than anything. It was obvious to me he was out of position this year by the ease in which his layups were blocked consistently.

    He just didn't have the strength. The small forward position is more of a finesse spot than strength, and CW had very little strength this season.

    If you think about it, is he really that much diferent than DJ White was as a FR in terms of physique? Talk about a guy reshaping his body.

    I think CW has the potential to be a good, strong PF in his JR/SR years. But right now he is too thin to be effective. Personally, I think he has a lot of the skills you look for in a small forward and it will create mismatches next year if he plays in that position.

    Until Crean gets the roster he really wants, I say we bag the “3-guard” offense entirely. We looked a lot better with CW, Elston and Capo on the floor at the same time.

  • Disco_Briscoe

    Watford just needs some more time in the gym. Lean up, add muscle, and do agility training. I expect a huge improvement off his impressive freshman year.

    I'm with Jerry…he's a 4 in this offense.

  • OhioHoosier

    I agree. I think we need to find a 5. Elston and Bobby C are capable 4's

  • JerryCT

    Two reasons for blocks other than core strength is that he brings the ball behind his head. Do your own experiment and try and jump like that w the ball vs with the ball more in front of you.

    Also he got the ball too far underneath and often had to jump in a direction rather than straight up. He seems to win his share of center jumps so it always mystified me why he was blocked so much.

    I think by “strength” we also mean balance and an explosive quick jump so he is not bumped low into a weak effort. TP bumps his man and alters shots vs jumping for blocks for instance.

    I hate to say it but I actually agree on your 3 guard offense comment if it includes a change in offensive philosophy to include mucho grande off ball screens, set by TP the monster, for low or midrange shots by Elston adn Watford as the core offense. When the D collapses kick to Creek, Roth or Hulls or maybe Jones.

    We also played a high stack at times w Elston getting the post pass and that looked pretty good.

    It is unconventional thinking but I fear playing Jones and Hulls so many minutes given their ball screen weaknesses when I see how team defense has played such a major role in who is in the Final 4 and who isn't.

  • MillaRed

    Well Jerry, we can probably agree, regardless of how CW takes it to the hole, the kid is downright weak. Furthermore, getting stronger has to help with this topic. It certainly can't hurt. I have played a lot of bball. Sometimes in not so good shape, and other times in great shape. When I am stronger I am a completely different player around the rim.

    As much as I like VJ I have to agree, he has a lot to work on. In terms of getting a jumper off cleanly with a man in his face, he is top 5 in the Big Ten. But using screens and limiting TOs etc certainly needs improvement.

    I agree with you and Disco, in this offense CW is a 4. For the simple fact that he needs to be on the floor. Until we get 3 guards that fit the mold, I say go with the traditional line-up and see if CW can't take advantage of his size and quickness at the 3.

    I know it isn't ideal but I still like this line-up until someone takes a major step forward. And no it ain't perfect for many reasons. But I think it gives us the best chance to score at all 5 positions.

    PG – VJ
    SG – Mo
    SF – CW
    PF – Elston
    C – Capo

  • JerryCT

    See, agreeing with each other every so often is not so difficult.

  • JerryCT

    BGleas……donot mean to nitpick but between Elston and CW which player….

    1. shot fakes better/more often and drives to the bucket …..Elston ?
    2. shoots better from 3 ……Elston ?
    3. passes better from the high post …..Elston ?
    4. rebounds better …….. Watford ?

    I would reverse it w Elston the 3 and CW the 4 based on what they seem to do well this past season ………. putting strength issues aside

  • Indiana_Knight

    Is this basically Rivals chatter? Rivers isn't as essential to the team as Watford is, and he'll be gone sooner than later… I would really hate to lose CWat. I would literally be devastated. He's my favorite player on our roster, even above Creek, by a good bit. And he seemed so adamant about keeping the team together in his interviews to close the season… I can't imagine Crean would let Watford leave if it came down to Watford v. Rivers…

  • It's not nitpicking Jerry, it's all good fun and a good discussion:

    1) I would say Watford is better at driving to the basket, or at least has more potential to be better. I think Elston's handle is suspect.
    2) Shoots better from the 3. Elston had the higher percentage, but Watford had double the attempts, I think you can argue this is a wash. I'd say Elston's selection is better
    3) Agree, Watford hasn't shown much as far as passing ability yet.
    4) I think this is a wash too, once Elston got more time his rebounding numbers seemed to go up.

    I think both are better suited for the 4 spot, mainly due to my point above that I think it better allows them to exploit the fact that they're 6'9″ guys that can also shoot and penetrate a bit. I think you lose that advantage when you're defended by a quicker player more suited to playing perimeter defense.

    The problem is we need both Elston and Watford on the floor.

  • MillaRed

    True but I was in tears when I replied…………..

  • MillaRed

    If there is any truth to it all then it's in the capable hands of Coach Crean. He is responsible for keeping things together.

    IU will not be great next year. So, c ya lata' Rivers. Watford is the foundation. CTC knows this.

    I understand why coach wanted Rivers, but he might have been a mistake when all is said and done.

  • JerryCT

    I see agreement lasted 42 minutes ……….. must have seemed like an eternity.

  • HoosNation

    Wat needs someone to work with him all off season with his decision making. He is highly unaware of what “move” to use based on his postion on the court and/or how his defender was guarding him. I think this was the reason alot of his shots were blocked. Yes, his size/strength also contributed. He had to compensate by jumping sideways rather than straight up b/c he was so far under the basket his shot would hit off the bottom of the backboard. I believe he has a tremendous amount of potential if our coaching staff can bring it out of him (ex. Bobby Knight). I agree the 4 is not going to be his best lineup position, however I think playing there this year gave him an idea of what he needs to focus on to be dominate next year. I am optimistic that there will be some dramatic changes with IU next year, and hopefully it starts with the win/loss columns!!

    Just to add my IMO lineup for next season…..based on developing players!!

    PG- Hulls Sub- Rivers
    SG- Creek Sub- Jones/Roth
    C- Bawa Sub- Capo/Recruit?
    SF- Watford Sub- Olapido/Sheehey
    PF- Elston Sub- Capo/Pritchard

    HoosNation 4 Life

  • One of the reasons I think Watford is a 4 is because you mentioned him taking advantage his size and quickness at the 3. How does he take advantage of quickness at the 3? At the 3 he'll be defended by players much more athletic and quicker than him.

    I said this in an earlier post, but IMO, his game is most similar to, and he can be used in a similar way, to how the Orlando Magic use Rashard Lewis. I know it's tough to compare college and NBA, but Lewis is an athletic 4, who would be an unathletic 3. He uses his shooting ability and quickness as a 4 to get his open looks and take advantage of penetrating on taller less athletic 4's that defend him.

    Either way, this is a great topic/debate, and CTC definitely needs to find a way to have Wat and Elston on the floor a ton.

  • I gotta say, that's pretty weak if you transfer because you don't like one guy on the team. Hopefully this doesn't play out, because it would be devastating to the program at this point IMO. I agree with Milla that if this is real, this is something CTC needs to nip in the bud.

  • Taskmaster75

    God I miss DJ White 🙁

  • marsh21

    I hope Bawa can fill that void for sure. Hell I've never seen him play yet.

  • marsh21

    I agree we need both on the floor for sure considering our current options. Watching CW struggle this season in the paint was difficult as he consistantly got his shot blocked by forcing the ball to the bucket. He never really created space and the move was predictable. IU had 12% of their shots blocked this past season and CW was a big part of that.

    Whether he plays the 3 or 4 he will need to get better at creating space which he certainly has the body to do. I just felt the 3 position would allow the game to create the space for him due to the movement of the 3 position.

  • marsh21

    IF Bawa can do that I agree!

  • marsh21

    He doesn't have the athletic mobility with his moves to the bucket nor strength YET to be an effective 4 position player. I like him a lot but he just was not effective when he was playing with his back to the basket like typical 4 position players do. He has a smooth looking jumper and needs to control the mid-range game more. i.e. flash to FT line or closer for a quick catch and shoot or quick move to create space. His shot would be much more difficult to block in that situation as the defense must move and adjust.

    Call it 3 or 4 or whatever you want but he must move and catch the ball verses waiting for it in a low post position requiring him to make a power move which is where he got into trouble.

    Go CW and IU!

  • MillaRed

    We are probably splitting hairs here Gleas. No doubt we are all Watford fans. I was speaking more of how Watford can handle the ball for a 6'9″ player that can shoot pretty well from 15 feet and can take anyone smaller than him to the hole. There aren't a lot of high scoring small forwards in the Big Ten. Purdue plays Hummel at the 4. I think after CW gets stronger he can put up similar numbers to Hummel.

    If Watford ever shoots like Rashard Lewis I will die a happy man. Lewis can shoot the rock.

    I'm hoping CW can gain another 20 pounds and still move around well. I'll be shocked if he is not 1st Team Big Ten by his junior year.

  • Kelin Blab

    Watford leaving rumors and whispers are kinda old given the kid said he would be back.

  • MillaRed

    Come on Jerry, Indiana_Knight raised the question. You know as well as I do Watford is the future.

    I'm calling out you ITH fans. How do we feel about J Rivers? Jerry seems to be behind him. And I want to know if I am being to hard on him………

  • Florida

    Is Watford really 6-9, he was 6-7 when he arrived. I think they all became 6-9 (Elsont, Prichard, Watford) when we were unable to recruit a legit big man.

  • marcusgresham

    I agree, but that means you'd have either had to play Tijan or Bawa, given that they were the only true centers on the roster. I've said all year that when Watford can play the 3 he'll be a matchup nightmare for the opponent, but that means someone else has to play the other two spots and right now I don't know who that would be.

  • marcusgresham

    I hadn't thought of that. I suppose it could be Watford 4/Elston 3 on offense and the other way around on defense, because I don't know about Elston's foot speed chasing around wing men and Watford's strength banging on the block.
    I'd say the better idea would be to have whomever has the bigger defender on him swing outside and post up the guy guarded by the smaller man. It doesn't have to be an either/or thing, just let the offense flow in the direction best suited to a basket.

  • marcusgresham

    TP jumps?! Damn, I must have missed that.

  • marcusgresham

    You might have just made me soil myself a little with excitement comparing him to DJ, because he's a far more explosive athlete than DJ was. He's not nearly as strong, but if he develops that physique I will have to wear some Depends.

  • marcusgresham

    TP jumps?! Damn, I must have missed that.

  • Indiana_Knight

    They're young kids, it's definitely not out of the question that he sprung up a bit over the summer. Dwayne Wade grew a couple inches in college, if you want a notable example…

    But I always thought the roster listings were a bit suspect. Supposedly Elston and Watford both weigh 220, but it doesn't look like Watford is as big as Elston to my eye…