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Philly Phanatic

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It’s official: Devontae Watson, the star center for Lincoln Park High School, is a Temple Owl. The 6-10, 195-lb senior signed his letter of intent on November 14th, becoming the first Division-I athlete the performing arts high school has produced.

“It feels good, and I don’t get any special treatment for it,” he said smiling, his braces glinting in the auditorium light. “It’s a great achievement.”

Flanked by his mother and school officials, Watson used a Temple-brandished pen with his name engraved on the side to pledge his intent.

Watson had his pick of the litter when it came to choosing a school to attend in the fall. Florida State, Penn State, Kent State and Dayton were just some of the schools that courted Watson, but after officially visiting the Temple campus in September, the big man made his decision.

Temple recruited Watson heavily and with good reason: The center averaged 16 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks a game during his junior season, leading the Leopards to the WPIAL Class A Final.

Watson is still somewhat of a project, however. The senior didn’t start playing basketball until middle school and didn’t play as a freshman while attending Hopewell High. He transferred to Lincoln Park and became a starter as a sophomore immediately – racking up AP Small School All-State honors during his two years.

“He needs to be able to go to his left,” Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski said. “But his defensive skills are on a college level.”

In his two years at Lincoln Park, Watson blocked 746 shots. His 92 inch wingspan is what separates him from other players, giving him the ability to be a presence for Temple right away.

“When he worked out at Temple for his official visit, he had six blocks in three pickup games. I think bigger than blocked shots are how many shots he alters. Guys get to the rim and they can’t lay it in like they’d like to.”

Bariski compared his big man to Emeka Okafor – a player who was limited offensively, but made up for it with his rebounding and blocking skills.

“He’s going to be a limited scorer – and limited might be in the teens – but he’s just going to be a beast on the boards and a beast blocker,” Bariski said.

Bariski thinks Watson has a chance to make some noise his freshman year for Fran Dunphy’s Owls – high praise for a player joining a program that has made four straight NCAA tournament appearances.
Photo by William McBride
For now, Watson and Bariski are going to focus on the forthcoming season and one last chance at winning the state championship. Though Watson is about to take the next big step in his life, he told his school that his heart will always beat in the halls of Lincoln Park.

“I might be a Temple Owl now, but I wanted to let you know I’ll always be a Lincoln Park Leopard.”

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