The last five years have taken Anthony Watkins on a global basketball journey from Lakeview Middle School to Europe and back and he hopes it will continue with him hearing his name called on the night of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Watkins, who prepped at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, is currently back with his family in northwest Georgia, trying to keep his body and his game in shape.
The NBA is currently shut down due to COVID-19, but the league recently approved a plan to restart play in July and hold the on Oct. 15. Until then, Watkins said he has been doing what he can to stay sharp despite the lack of pre-draft workouts.
“I’ve definitely had to get creative,” he explained. “(I’m) just trying to do anything I can. I’ve been watching a lot of film and just breaking that down. It’s given me a big opportunity to just really focus in on what I can get better at.
“From the physical side of things, (it’s been) just a lot of body weight stuff, core work, conditioning...that’s really all you can do. That and practicing outside on a blacktop like everybody else, but it’s been kind of fun just getting back to your roots and remembering where you came from.”
Following an All-Region senior season and a 31 on his ACT, Watkins had an eye on playing college, but ultimately came to the decision to begin a possible road to the NBA by playing professionally in Germany. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Dewayne, who played pro ball in that country for 12 years.
After being born in Germany in 2000, Anthony moved back to the states with his parents in 2002, first to Murfreesboro, Tenn. and then to Chattanooga before finally settling in northwest Georgia when his father was hired as the girls’ basketball head coach at LFO.
With the younger Watkins already having gotten some experience with the German national team program, even while still in high school, the 19-year-old eventually decided that testing himself against more experienced pro players in that country would be more of a benefit to his overall game.
“That took me awhile to come to that conclusion because I really wanted to do my due diligence with the NCAA,” he said. “But it just wasn’t the right fit for me. I’m glad I made the choice to go ahead and make that jump because my game has definitely developed a whole lot.”
Known more as a scorer when he first went to McCallie — he once poured in 47 points in a 28-minute game for LMS in 2015 — Watkins said he began to work more on his defense and athleticism and that he has made significant strides since playing pro ball in Germany.
“Going to the professional game, I really saw that my athleticism has developed even more,” he explained. “I was always one of, if not the fastest guy on the court, and that’s something I’m working on right now, continuing to keep my athleticism up and trying to improve on that.”
This past August, Watkins played limited minutes in 10 games with Erfurt Loewen in the German 2 Bundesliga Pro-B Division. Following the Christmas holidays, he joined the Giessen Pointers and scored 22 points and grabbed eight boards in his first game with the club. He finished the season averaging 10 points and over four rebounds a game, while shooting 53 percent from the field and a whopping 66.7 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Since working with the national teams and playing professional in Germany, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder, who speaks the language fluently, has also made the transition to point guard.
“I’ve always been a taller guy on my team, so I never really got the opportunity to really run a team (before),” he explained, adding that playing professionally has given him the chance to ‘have the keys to the car’. “That was really huge for me, understanding the mental side behind (playing point guard) and what goes into it. It’s more than just bringing the ball down the court.”
His year in the pros has made him NBA draft eligible this year and his father says he is excited to see his son chase his dreams now, especially when there are plenty of options to get a college education later down the road.
“There is a small window for a professional athlete to operate in,” he said. “Anthony wants to capture as much of that time as possible. I am excited to help him along this journey. In my opinion, every young person should be encouraged to chase their dreams while they are young.”
For now, Watkins plans to continue to work while he awaits word about his future. And even if his name isn’t called on draft night, he says he is excited about the opportunities that might be available for him, including the NBA Summer League, the NBA G-League and possible pro offers overseas, as he continues to strive to ultimately reach his NBA goal.
“Right now there’s a lot of buzz going, so I’m hopeful that some good situations will come up,” he added. “I’ve already got some (German and other European) teams contacting me about my status, so I’m really excited regardless of what happens. I’m just glad that my hard work is really paying off right now.”