After spending roughly two weeks in Iceland and one week in Czech Republic, Eryk Watson, former Maryville College basketball superstar, has found a basketball home in Romania.
Watson, a 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound wing from Kennesaw Mountain high school in Powder Springs, Ga., proved to be arguably the best basketball player to ever come through Maryville College.
His 1,943 career points ranks him second on the all-time list. Watson reached the 1,000-point milestone early in his junior year, and was only 54 points shy of doubling that mark after playing his final game as a Scot. To go along with his sharp-shooting three-point shot, Watson’s elusiveness, speed and natural instinct made him a nearly unstoppable scoring machine during his years at Maryville. Watson also added 425 rebounds, 240 assists, 47 blocks, and 182 steals during his years at MC.
In short, Watson did it all while at MC. Although his college career is now over, Watson isn’t ready to hang it up just yet. In fact, his basketball career is just starting.
Following a stellar senior year at MC, which consisted of 24.1 pts per game, ranking him seventh in the nation, Watson was informed that an Icelandic basketball team was interested in his talents. Watson was ecstatic about the opportunity, but after his arrival, it was clear that Iceland was expecting more of a natural point guard, so Watson took his talents to the Czech Republic.
After spending about a week in the eastern European country, Watson was faced with another dilemma – what he called “a bad business deal.” So he packed up again and moved on.
Now he resides in Romania, where he is content and plans on spending the next eight months focusing on one thing and one thing only: basketball.
So, where is Romania you might ask? Romania, the ninth largest country of the European Union, is located at the crossroads of central and southeastern Europe. Romania has a population of close to 21.5 million people and a landmass a little smaller than Wyoming.
Romania is more known for its culture and tradition rather than producing basketball stars. According to www.axatravel.ro, “The Romanian culture is very rich in tradition and folklore. The culture steams from the Dacians, who once occupied the area in the past, [who] among other influences [were] Romans. Festivals feature brightly ornamented costumes with traditional dancing.”
Good thing Watson graduated from a small, liberal-arts school like Maryville, to prepare him for that.
“Yeah, I like it; it’s different,” Watson said. “I’ve only been here about a week, so I’m just ready to get into basketball. It isn’t as structured as I thought it would be. There isn’t really a discipline factor. It’s more of a learn-as-you-go strategy,” Watson said after being asked if he enjoyed his new home.
Not only is Watson excited to be in Romania, but Romania was also every excited to sign a player of his caliber.
“When I got here, they told me they expected me to shoot the three, play good defense and be an official two-guard,” Watson said.
This should not be a problem for Watson, who hit 214 career treys while at Maryville, knocking down an amazing 47 percent of his three-point shots during his senior season.
Not only does Watson bring athleticism and sharp shooting to the table, but he has also been known as a terrific leader, on and off the court. Two former teammates of Watson’s, senior Maverick Willet and junior Corey Cheek, spoke about Watson’s leadership.
“He is just a natural leader who leads by example,” said Maverick Willet, a center.
“He isn’t much of a vocal leader, but he would just show us how much he wanted to win by how hard he practiced every day,” said former MC point guard Cory Cheek.
Always with a smile on his face, Watson is someone that one doesn’t have to be shy to approach about anything, whether one is looking for advice or just a friendly conversation. When asked to explain Watson’s personality, MC alumnus Demetrius Christian, a good friend and former roommate of Watson’s, replied, “[Watson is] fun and outgoing; always up for a good laugh and a prank.”
Watson is one of only five Americans on his new squad. When asked if there have been any communication problems yet, Watson replied: “Oh yeah! Everyone here speaks Romanian. I have a coach that speaks no English, so it’s like playing charades when you talk to him. I’m just the new guy, though, so I’m still trying to pick up on everything, including the plays and the language.”
“Things are a lot different over here,” Watson continued. “Practices are very laid back and much easier than a practice at Maryville under Coach Lambert. They only last for about an hour and a half and consist of a couple shooting drills, a scrimmage and going over plays. The players are a lot bigger and a lot stronger.”
Although the foreigners may be much bigger and stronger, Watson also admits that they are not very athletic.
“Compared to the competition that I faced at Maryville, these guys are pretty slow and un-athletic, but they are very smart about how to play the game.”
According to Watson, the players aren’t the only difference in Romania. When asked about the environment of the games, Watson was quick to answer.
“The atmosphere is crazy here, man. Fans bring in drums and other instruments and go nuts. It’s almost like a national tournament every game,” Watson said enthusiastically.
Being one of the only African-American people in his new home, everyone knows who he is and why he is there.
“I’ve been getting a lot of attention from the people here. People are always coming up wanting pictures and autographs. Because I’m one of the only black kids, everyone knows who I am and why I am here,” Watson said.
It seems that even all the way across the world, Watson is still the big man on campus.
Watson will play in his first game on Sunday, Oct. 2. He is expected to get significant playing time during the game.
“Americans don’t usually come out of the game,” Watson said. “They are so much faster and more athletic than the other guys, so it’s important to have them in the game.”
This will be Watson’s first time playing on television, and viewers will probably find him wearing number 33, the same number he was so well known for while tearing up opposing defenses for Lambert here at Maryville College.