On the same day that Washington State Men’s Basketball team announced the signing of Isaac Jones, they also announced that a freshman had signed with the Cougs. Isaiah Watts played a prep-year at South Kent School in Connecticut, and played at West Seattle before that. He also played for the famed Seattle Rotary EYBL team, making him the first player from Rotary that Kyle Smith has recruited since Noah Williams.
Prior to committing to WSU, Watts was committed to go play for Shaheen Holloway at Seton Hall. He was a three-star recruit out of high school and he comes from a basketball family. Watts is the son of former Washington Huskie Donald Watts, who played in Montlake from 1995-1999. His grandfather, Donald “Slick” Watts, was an NBA player for the Seattle Supersonics in the 1970s. Watts brings pedigree and upside to Pullman.
The thing that stands out most when watching Watts play is his impressive grit and tenacity on defense. He is a long 6’3 and flashes some lockdown ability at the point of attack. His lateral quickness and length makes it tough for guards to get by him in isolation.
He also possesses active hands that allow him to be a playmaker defensively. He consistently pokes balls free and bothers ball-handlers without getting overly aggressive and reaching.
When guarding the pick-and-roll, Watts has both great screen navigation and great recovery tools.
Watts is a willing and active defender. His size doesn’t make him much of a factor on rim-rotations, but his closeouts are good. He gets a lot of steals by ripping the ball from drivers in help, but even when it doesn’t result in a turnover, Watts’ help is nice boost to his defense.
Just like any young player, there are some things he will have to work out defensively. He can over-gamble and open up drives and his thin frame leaves him susceptible to strength-based drivers, but he projects as a high-level defender moving forward.
Watts’ hustle also translates to the offensive boards. While it’s definitely easier for guards to crash the glass in EYBL play, he still showed an outlier feel for putbacks and creating extra possessions for his team by just working harder than his opponents.
Watts projects as a scoring, spacing two-guard offensively and he puts the shooting in shooting guard. His outside jumper can be inconsistent, but it projects to be a weapon moving forward and he flashed versatility as a shooter. He is best moving to his left, but he is willing to bomb off of movement in a manner that is reminiscent of former Coug Tyrell Roberts.
Watts’ mechanics are clean and smooth. He has a high-release and perfect energy transfer from his lower-body through his hands. He is also a great off-ball mover who excels at relocating and finding spots where the defense isn’t.
Shooting dynamism is important for most shooting guards, but especially 6’3 ones. Luckily, Watts already looks comfortable creating shots for himself off the bounce. His handle is not super complex currently, but his rhythm on pull-ups is picture perfect.
Another intriguing aspect of Watts’ off-ball scoring package is his athleticism near the rim. Watts is a bouncy two-foot athlete who was the recipient of many lobs while playing for Rotary. He is not the most versatile finisher, but that level of athleticism does point to some upside there.
He is almost always looking to load up off of two-feet when finishing at the rim. He can take off well outside the lane, but being primarily a two-foot athlete does limit his burst and options as a finisher. He will need to develop some craft to maximize his scoring arsenal.
Watts is a bit undersized to be a traditional shooting guard, so the long-term hope might be that he could develop and handle some point guard reps. He does have a nice base to build on with his first-step, but he is far from a finished project in that area.
His passing is hit or miss, but the willingness and decision-making are both there with only the court-mapping lagging behind. He is good at reading the immediate help once he beats the first line of defense, but he needs to work more on engaging that help and reading the second line and third lines of defense moving forward.
His overall upside as a slasher and ball-handler will depend on him getting more consistent as a driver and finisher. The finishing is currently limited, but he’s tenacious and willing to experiment and work to maximize opportunities.
The ceiling for Watts is a truly complete starter, who could be one of the best defenders in the conference, a great shooter with versatility, and someone who playmake for himself and others when needed. His defensive prowess and outside shooting could get him on the floor for solid bench minutes as a freshman, and if WSU can hold onto long-term, he could be a do-it-all weapon at the two.