Sunday, September 24, 2006

Earl Watson In Hometown to Unveil Basketball League

By Nick Sloan
The Kansas City, Kansan

Thanks to Earl Watson, Kansas City, Kan. middle school students interested in basketball will have a new league to play in.

Watson, a Washington High School graduate who plays on the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics, returned to KCK Friday afternoon to introduce the program.

“We are really excited about it,” Watson said. “I owe it to my city. It’s time to give back. They supported me from middle school on and it’s time for me to bridge that gap.”

Watson will underwrite the Earl Watson Youth Metro basketball league. The leagues will operate for sixth, seventh and eighth graders in both KCK and Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s like we are one city and we are bringing the two cities together with this program,” Watson said.

This will be the first time Watson has worked with Kansas City, Mo., in charitable actions. Watson jokingly said he had time to think of the program since Sonics misses the playoffs last season.

Watson, originally drafted by the Sonics, was traded back to Seattle from the Denver Nuggets.

“Being in the NBA is a false reality,” he said. “You have to stay humble. I think basketball for me growing up in Wyandotte County was an escape. In sports, you can’t win every game, and in life, you can’t win every day.”

The league will be open to 10 teams for each grade, with each team featuring between 7-10 players along with a coach.

Earl Watson Sr., Watson’s father, said the program will be featured in different recreational centers in Wyandotte County.

“He sponsored one of our tournaments,” Watson Sr., said. “These leagues will be going all around Wyandotte County.”

Unified Government officials said the program would give players the opportunity to compete against those outside of Wyandotte County.

“It’s going to give them the opportunity to be better by playing better competition,” said Jim Rusconi, program coordinator of sports at the parks and recreation department. “They’ll have time to increase their skills. It brings folks outside of the KCK area and interact with our students.”

Watson expects Seattle to have a good year.

“I’m excited for the young team we’re going to have,” he said. “We’re going to be a physical team. My career is still on an incline.”

Watson will play in Kansas City in an NBA exhibition game. Seattle will play against the Chicago Bulls. Along with Watson, the game is expected to draw interest locally because of Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, two University of Kansas All-Big 12 team members.

“We talk about Kansas a lot,” Watson said of his teammate Collison.

The registration deadline will be Oct. 6, and with space limited. It’s a first come, first served opportunity.


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