There was quite a bit to be encouraged with after watching Christian Watford’s freshman campaign in Bloomington.
On a team without a legitimate post threat, Watford was immediately called upon to produce in the paint and led the Hoosiers in rebounding at 6 per game. He was IU’s second leading scorer at 12 points per game, logged over 28 minutes a game and showed the ability to step out and knock down shots from the perimeter. And he was the team’s leading shot blocker and hit free throws at an 80 percent clip.
For his efforts, Watford was named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team and The Sporting News and FoxSports.com tabbed him as the league’s top freshman.
But for all of his successes, Watford struggled to score consistently (and with much efficiency) in the paint. The Birmingham native shot just 37.5 percent from the floor (36.3 percent in Big Ten play) and had difficulty finishing through contact against bigger, stronger opponents. Part of the problem was that Watford was playing, at times, out of position. And part of it was failing to implement creative ways to finish plays at the basket. By season’s end, Big Ten opponents seemed to have a beat on Watford’s book of post plays and blocked his shot with regularity.
The 2010-2011 season will be one of transition for the 6-9 sophomore forward as he makes the move from the four to the three.
Watford told Ryan in August at adidas Nations that two of his points of emphasis in the offseason were improving upon his strength and outside game. If he’s to blossom into the All-Big Ten caliber player that his talent suggests he’s capable of becoming, he’ll need continue using his size to exploit smaller defenders on the offensive side of the ball. Great players often find a way to make frequent trips to the free throw line and that’s an area Watford should continue to excel in. He wasn’t particularly great off the dribble as a freshman, but that’s another area of his game where he’s reportedly made strides.
Defensively, his added bulk coupled with his impressive wing span should make him one of IU’s most versatile defenders, but he could struggle at times if he’s asked to defend quicker players on the perimeter.
Bottom Line: Watford is a key piece as the Hoosiers continue their climb back towards prominence both nationally and in the Big Ten. Based on our brief look at him at Friday’s Hoosier Hysteria, his physical presence is certainly trending in the right direction, which should help him finish plays at the basket and avoid having to rely on lower percentage attempts like turn-around and fade-away jump shots. While Crean insists that all five starting positions are open as practice kicks off, it’s tough to imagine Watford on the bench when the season tips off in November.
Quotable: ‘This is, by far, the most competitive team I have been on in a long time. We go at each other everyday in workouts but we still love each other. We understand it is just part of getting better and winning.” – Christian Watford
“The ball’s going to move this year, the ball’s going to move. There’s no doubt about it. And we need him to score, we need him to be inside-outside and outside-inside depending on what it calls for.” – Tom Crean
Filed to: Christian Watford