2011-12 Player Profile: Christian Watford

  • 10/21/2011 8:00 am in

It’s time for Inside the Hall’s player-by-player breakdown of the 2011-2012 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Christian Watford.

Christian Watford established himself as Indiana’s go-to scorer early in his sophomore campaign.

But his Big Ten was a mixed bag, one that came with some rough shooting performances and a wrist injury that sidelined him for three contests. A few of those poor offensive performances: vs. Penn State (1-5, three points), at Minnesota (2-13, two points) and at Illinois (1-8, seven points).

All three games resulted in a Hoosier loss.

At times, Watford found himself down on the block in a power forward role, and struggled to get off assertive shot attempts against the opposing defender. His defensive effort was also lacking, which led to easy scores for the other team on numerous occasions.

Still, Watford saw much improvement year over year in the candy stripes, improving his shooting (39.8 to 47.6 eFG%), turnover rate (19.1 to 14.0 percent), free throw rate (45.3 to 49.0 percent) and free throw shooting (80.0 to 84.3 percent). That strong percentage at the line ranked the Alabama native in a tie for second in the conference.

And as he enters his junior season, word has trickled out from Bloomington that he’s matured and now understands the work it really takes to reach the next level.

Watford half transitioned out to the wing last season. With Cody Zeller and the potential emergence of Derek Elston, Watford may find himself in that role more exclusively in 2011-12, which appears to be his more natural fit. He likely won’t have to take on so much of the offensive burden this season, and may receive easier looks in the context of an offensive flow instead of the contested shots he took in the Big Ten season.

As such? Watford appears on track for another jump in his game this season.

Best-case: The junior becomes more efficient on the offensive end, continues to shoot well at the line, improves his defense and establishes himself as one of the premier talents in the league.

Worst-case: Watford fails to improve, and gets marginalized in an offense featuring more scorers.

Quotable: “If we didn’t make it (the NCAA Tournament), I feel like it would be a failure. With what we’ve got now, the time is now … It’s more player-driven now because we are a veteran team. We hold each other accountable more than anything. We embrace the hard work – we know the workouts are going to be hard going into it – but we try to attack it. As veterans, we talk to the younger guys and push them through it.” – Watford to the media on  Sept. 22.

All stats in this piece from KenPom and Statsheet.

Previously: Jordan Hulls, Will SheeheyVerdell Jones III, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Tom Pritchard, Matt Roth

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  • Anonymous

    Of everything that has happened recruiting-wise and player development wise, it works out in Watford’s favor the most. We have constructed the team and found the right pieces so he can move to his natural position and thrive. 

    If the rest of the team around him can play up to their potential, I see Watford making 2nd Team All Big Ten at the least.

    More improvement this year and Watford could be in for a monster, Big Ten MVP senior year. Show ’em what you got Christian.

  • JerryCT

    I am not convinced he is a 3 in this offense. Is he quick enough off the bounce ? Can he defend a quicker player ? Does he handle and pass well enough ? …………………….he is our best scorer but he has a  long way to go .

  • peach house

    I honestly believe Watford took an unfair amount of criticism on this website last year, from myself included. He was constantly defending out of position and forced to play on the block against larger players. I think he will flourish with the arrival of Zeller and I do believe he is quick enough to play the 3 in this offense…whether or not that means he is an NBA talent remains to be seen but all WE can hope for is that he is an effective player for the Hoosiers this year.

  • Mrh12490

    Great midrange jump shooter when open, but agree with post below can Watford drive by other 3’s in the Big10. Hopefully he has really improved on the defensive end along with the rest of the team as that was a major weakness. Overall I’m hoping with Cwat, Zeller, and Hulls IU should be able to score much easier and at a higher rate this year.  

  • Kewaynes

    How can he be MVP of the Big Ten of the MVP his senior year when he won’t even be MVP of his own team?

  • IUball

    That is the big question, an Watford play the 3? We won’t know until the season starts.

    Watford isn’t real quick, but his size should really bother most other perimeter players. Offensively I expect Watford to be successful because he really improved skill wise freshman to sophomore year and I expect him to continue to improve.

    I think the biggest challenge Watford faces is just playing hard all the time. If the article is accurate that Christian has stepped up his intensity, then he should be fine.

  • Anonymous

    My thoughts exactly.  I think he can score plenty as a 3 but I worry about his lateral quickness guarding 3’s.  Maybe we won’t face that many uber-talented 3’s but he surely can’t make it to the next level without a significant improvement in perimeter D (or I guess bulking up and becoming a real 4).

  • IUball

    One thing that really helps Watford in preparing to guard quicker players: Abell, Oladipo and Sheehey. 

    Footwork is of course key. Watford can give a little more space than other defenders because of his length to make up for some of the quickness. But all in all it comes down to how hard Watford wants it.

    I’m optimistic.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, i sorta get that too – CWat REALLY needs to compensate and use his length to overcome the limited quickness on both sides of the ball. I’m sure he’s being coached up in those areas. I hope we can get Calbert out of the Dir of BB Ops into a real position where he can coach daily instead of offering advice on issues brought to him.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree, at the very least he will have to become much better at one or the other to have big success at this level and get a chance at the next level. He may even need to acquire a noticeable improvement at both to have a real chance to have a career that lasts more than a year or two at the next level.

  • Anonymous

    There is very little doubt that Zeller, Watford and Hulls are the stars
    of this team. If any one of the three can become a top 5 All-Big 10
    player, this will be a good (20+ win) season. Vic and Will are the next
    best players and have to get 22-25 minutes/game on the floor each.
    Elston and Pritchard have to do it on the floor, “being 6’9” is no
    longer good enough. Derek could be great, but can he develop the mental
    side of his talent? Verdell can show that he is the senior leader that
    we have desperately needed for the last three years. If he can accept
    lesser “billing” but play great, then this can be a special season.
    Austin and Remy have to bring it all and bring it hard every second on
    the floor. They each have some real talent that Indiana has sorely
    needed. I hope that Matt Roth hits 50% of his 3’s because if he can’t
    Danny Moore might. Danny does a lot of good things in short stretches.
    No more excuses now for Coach Crean, it is win NOW time! We miss and
    love you Mo Creek and want to see you play again at 100%! GO IU!

  • Anonymous

    I expect big things out of Watford this year. While he did not become the perfect player last year, it was clear that he worked hard and got in the gym based on how much he did improve from year one to year two. If he’s really matured as a player and become more focused, it can only mean good things.

    Last year he wasn’t a strong enough ballhandler to really get out and stay out on the wing, though he did drive(rarely), and looked nice utilizing a stop and pop move in the midrange that he would’ve been well served to use more often. This year he says improving his ballhandling was his #1 priority. If he can improve his ballhandling as rapidly as he improved his 3p shooting, his TOrate, and his FTrate he should look pretty good off the bounce.

    Defensively the biggest thing he needs is an attitude adjustment. The second biggest thing he needs, greater explosion, was always going to come in time. When he came to IU C.Watford was physically weak. He lacked explosion and strength. He progressed last year, but people need to recall just how often Watford was pushed around as a freshman here at IU. He looked like he came from a background that didn’t include much, if any, weightlifting as opposed to say, Oladipo. The strength will come in time. With stronger legs his explosiveness will only increase over the length of his stay here in Bloomington. I don’t think we’ve seen the height of his athleticism yet. Combine that with a change of attitude and I do think Watford can defend 3s in this league. He has to learn to use his length because there are a few 6’5″ 3s in the league like Novak, and we’ll face taller athletic specimens like Terrence Jones as well.

    I don’t think Watford or Hulls will ever sniff the all-defensive team but they should both be stronger on the defensive end this year. I really like Watford’s trajectory so far and I really do think he’ll show himself to be one of the very best players in the conference this year. I wish he could’ve shown off the work he’s done at Hoosier Hysteria but I guess the start of the regular season isn’t too far off. I can’t wait.

  • Anonymous

    If he worked on his handle I could see him becoming like a Carmelo Anthony-lite that can play from the perimeter but also post up and hit mid-range turnarounds. If he uses his length on the perimeter on D then he’d be helping himself out greatly.

  • Anonymous

    I’m predicting now that Watford adds 2 points per game to his avg, and 2 rebounds, for season avgs of 18 and 7, and that he makes 1st team all big ten, and leaves early for the draft (assuming the NBA has one)……………

  • MillaRed

    “And as he enters his junior season, word has trickled out from
    Bloomington that he’s matured and now understands the work it really
    takes to reach the next level.”

    That’s how.

  • MillaRed

    Another year of maturity, another off-season in the weight room, a total commitment on the defensive side, and most importantly team defense.

    Whoever CWat is defending has to do the same on the other end. And I will bet my money on Watford scoring more than his defender. He is already one of the best scoring SF’s in the league and is getting better.

    I think the opposing coaching staff will be worrying a lot more about who is matching up with Christian than Coach Crean will on the IU side.

  • MillaRed

    ……..and he played hurt.

  • jah

    Totally agreed.

    Even more, in which offense, exactly, is he a natural “3”? Especially when the modern college game is dominated at even the highest competitive line-up by three-guard line-ups?

    I get the desire to create “mis-matches.” As such, it would seem to me that Wat’s potential to take an opposing “4” out to the perimeter than would his height advantage over the typical opposing “3.” Let’s be realistic; the height advantage there just won’t be that great, when the typical 3-guard is around 6’5″.

    I understand that Wat then faces a disadvantage in the post on defense. However, it will be a heck of a lot easier for Wat to learn post-defense than it will be for opposing “4’s” to magically develop the footspeed to keep up with Wat on the perimeter. Put another way, Watford can learn to negate most of his disadvantage mis-match when he’s at the “4”; his opponents cannot.

    Finally, in the context of the effect on the larger team from the choice of where to put Wat, which line-up maximizes IU’s talent? The one that puts Pritchard or Elston on the floor, or the one that puts Oladipo, Sheehey, or Jones III on the floor?

    To me, that’s barely even a question. For this year, IU should want as many of its wings on the floor at the same time as is possible. That’s where the talent is.

  • MillaRed

    Funny, I was talking to a friend last night and I made a Melo comparison. But it wasn’t CWat it was Jeremy Hollowell. He has similar game to the Syracuse Melo, but without the crap attitude.

  • MillaRed

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    Gunner Kiel is re-evaluating his commitment to Indiana! Crap!

  • Um, how did Melo have a crao attitude at Syracuse? He almost single handedly led them to an NCAA title as a freshmen. I hope Hollowell’s attitude is close to as “crap” as that. 

  • Agree Jerry. I’ve said this on ITH and Hoosier Nation numerous times, Christian Watford is a college version of Rashard Lewis. He’s a face-up/perimeter 4. He’s doesn’t have the handles or athleticism to play the 3. 

    Where his penetrating is effective is when he’s playing the 4 and being defended by 4’s who aren’t used to defending the perimeter. It’s tough to imagine the dribble-drive being effective when 2/3’s of the perimeter players (Hulls/Watford) aren’t great at penetrating. The thing is, for a perimeter 4 to be really effective you need a strong big in the middle. We haven’t had that the last 3 years, but now we do with Zeller. 

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Alex,
    Do you think Calbert was brought in to really take over BB Ops or to be brought into that position knowing he will be switched in the near future due to available slots on assistance?
    I totally agree that CC could do volumes for our coaching staff.
    BC

  • MillaRed

    Wake up a little grumpy Gleas?

    Actually, Melo has the crap attitude now. And it’s really, really crappy. I enjoyed watching his run at Syracuse.

    The point of my post was to give Jeremy a compliment. Please focus on that part instead.

  • Didn’t mean to come off as grumpy, my bad! Looks like I read your post wrong, I thought you meant Melo had a crap attitude while at Syracuse. I’m not a Melo fan or anything, but thought that was inaccurate. 

    Sorry for misinterpreting. 

  • Anonymous

    If Hollowell came in and averaged 20/10 as a freshamn in a bad mood I could probably live with it.

    If CW worked on his handles in the offseason I think we’d see a lot more fluidity instead of his sometimes herky-jerky stuff. I’d love to see him grab a board, dribble the ball up on the wing and either pop a trey, post and dish or work a nice hesitation dribble move while going to the rim.

  • MillaRed

    All good brother. You’re right. What I remember the most about Melo during that run is him smiling and having a great time. By the way, almost single handedly? Man he pretty much did it himself. Incredible performance. One of the best ever I think.

    Keep up the good work Gleas.

  • Anonymous

    You say he was constantly defending out of position and this wasn’t right because his man was usually taller and bigger than him but we expect TP to go up against opponents that are even more of a mismatch, height and weight wise,  than the players that CW goes up against. TP & CW are the same height and TP only outweighs him by 20 pounds and it probably is even less than that now from what I seen at HH last Saturday night. While I agree that CW, and IU, are best served by not playing the 4 he has got to learn how to excel other than when he is taller and bigger than the guy guarding him, especially if he wants to play any amount of time at the next level. I like CW and think he is very pivotal to how we do this year. Nor am I trying to dog him or tell you you are completely wrong about him but rather I am stating what IMHO he needs to be better at for his AND IU’s sake.

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    I’ve been hearing this for a couple weeks now. Just hoping that it wasn’t going to be true.

  • MillaRed

    We could probably use a few kids that bring the “bad mood” mentality to the game. Coverdale looked like he was PO’d his entire career.

    Sheehey’s attitude was brought up this week. We need a little attitude!

    In terms of Watford, I remember this more than anything. His FR year he was getting stuffed at the basket like a Thanksgiving turkey 3 times a game. Last year he finished stronger and this year? We’ll see. The kid improved a lot last season. With ups and downs. But he was just a SO on a bad team. I think we should give the kid some credit.

  • Anonymous

    Just having him around the current players and prospective recruits when they are on campus in any job that allows him to be seen and heard is a plus and I would be very surprised that if and when a full time assistants job opens up that he will not be the one to immediately fill it. My guess is that Director of BB operations is just a way for him to be around to have a positive effect on IU bball as a whole and gives him a job that is as close to being an assistant as possible without breaking any rules.

  • Anonymous

    No, it should be if… it’s future tense, Wat should’ve said don’t instead of didn’t.

  • BEAT KENTUCKY

    I wish CWat could gain some weight . he looked as skinny as ever at hysteria intros .

  • jaywiz

    fat chance on leaving early. He will be borderline 2nd round if he plays as you project.

  • jaywiz

    Not really a surprise. It is a bummer though.

  • Jethro Troll

    Hollowell’s game reminds me much more of Paul Pierce than Melo.  Hollowell, like Pierce, is a good but not great athlete.  Both have an outside shot, a mid ranger and the ability to get to the basket, but the biggest similarity is in how they create space.  As I said before, neither are great athletes, but they both a smooth way of creating space to get their shots off.  Its a great skill to possess that requires a high bball IQ.

    Hollowell is the most complete, all around player in IU’s 2012 class.

  • IUball

    I like Jeremy’s game too. But Yogi is by far the most complete (defense, awareness, etc.)

  • IUball

    I agree, Watford has a long way to go before going pro. He just doesn’t have good foot speed or agility to play on the perimeter in the pros, nor the strength and jumping to play inside.

    I hope he does get to the NBA, but after having a huge senior season.

  • IUball

    You are exactly right, potential trumps stats for NBA scouts. But that is Watford lacks compared to other prospects. Watford is not very athletic. Marvin Williams is.

    I hope Watford makes it pro, but I don’t see him leaving early at all.

    I just hope Hanner stays for more than 2 years.

  • MillaRed

    Hey I’ll take a Paul Pierce thank you very much

  • Anonymous

    Ironically, if he’s playing the 3, I’m not sure he has to drive past.  You could spot him up and he could shoot over guys, or you could even post him up and let him go to work against smaller defenders, which is a situation his post abilities are more suited for.  It will be interesting to see how he’s utilized.