NEW PORT RICHEY — The Mustangs have their eyes on regionals — and beyond.
Mitchell’s 2012 postseason was cut short in the quarterfinals, when it was handily defeated by Winter Haven. Last year, the Mustangs got a round further, but the buzzer sounded with the Blue Devils just one point ahead.
This year, Mitchell wants to finally get past that region semifinals, and with Lawrence Watt part of an equation that’s taken the Mustangs to a 14-1 season, they might have that chance.
“He’s my tough guy on the team,” coach Jared St. Charles said. “He’s our warrior. He gets us going.”
Watt, a junior, has become one of the most consistent scorers on the North Suncoast. Entering Friday’s game against Osceola, he was averaging a team-best 15.9 points per game and 6.5 rebounds.
“He’s a great defender, good at the rim,” St. Charles said. “He hits the easy baskets we need to stay ahead.”
Watt doesn’t credit himself for the Mustangs’ success, despite the numbers he’s putting up. He said the difference this year is his team’s depth on the bench.
“All five of us can score,” he said of his fellow starters. “If one of us is having a bad game, someone else can pick it up.”
Watt started playing basketball when he was about 5 years old. His family had a basketball hoop in the yard, and his father signed him up for a YMCA league when he was still tiny. Both of his parents were adamant he stay involved in athletics.
This is Watt’s third season starting for Mitchell, but he didn’t break out as one of the Mustangs’ best players until his sophomore year.
As a freshman, he averaged 3.4 points per game. He increased that number to 14 the following year.
Watt said playing AAU in the offseason and a rigorous summer training schedule made the difference.
“Playing in front of college scouts really motivated me on the court,” he said.
He’s starting to catch the attention of some of those scouts and has had preliminary talks with a few schools. So far, the most serious interest comes from Jacksonville University, which recently sent him a letter indicating their interest. He plans to visit the campus soon.
Watt is realistic about his chances to play college ball, and his dream school is Florida Atlantic. Though he’d prefer to stay in-state, what really matters is staying involved in the game.
Most of Watt’s goals for this season are for his team. He wants the Mustangs to reach the state final, and he wants them to put up a good fight against Largo (12-1, 4-0), the only other undefeated team in Class 6A, District 10. The teams face off Jan. 17.
Before the game, he’ll eat his go-to pregame meal of chicken and pasta. He’ll spend time with his teammates in the locker room. He’ll lace up the shoes he never switches out. It’s a series of rituals that helps him gear up.
Watt had to think for a moment when asked about his personal goals. These included improving his free-throw percentage (currently 67 percent), snagging more rebounds and upping his points per game average to between 17 and 20.
“And really be there for my team,” he added. “It wasn’t just about improving my stats, but about really being there for my team.”
Mary Kenney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter @MaryKNews.