The graduate transfer is looking to carry over the momentum from her strong play in the ACC.
When the USC Women of Troy kicked off their 2019-20 season, they had several new faces on the team, including seven freshmen. But the one player who is perhaps poised to have the biggest impact is Stephanie Watts.
Watts is a graduate transfer after having spent the past four seasons at UNC.
Back in high school, she was one of the best players in the state of North Carolina. In 2015 during her senior year at Weddington High School, she was named both a Naismith and McDonald’s All-American as well as the state Gatorade Player of the Year.
Her strong play continued as she made the transition to college basketball. During the 2015-16 season, she was named the ACC Freshman of the Year after putting up 14.7 points per game, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks. She was also named to the All-ACC Second Team.
More from NCAA
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, April 6: Stanford defeats Arizona in a tightly contested matchup to win the national title
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 30: UConn and Baylor deliver a classic battle of storied programs
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 26: Louisville and Texas A&M survive and advance
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 23: Highlights from the first round of the NCAA Tournament
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 16: Tournament bracket released
Now, she’s looking to bring a spark to a USC team that finished 7-11 in the Pac-12 Conference last season.
“It’s been really good so far,” Watts told High Post Hoops. “We have a bunch of young players, but everyone plays hard and is willing to learn. It’s been good and I’m excited for the season.”
USC has gotten off to a 2-0 start with Watts playing a key role in both wins. She was actually out of commission recently with a foot injury and unable to take part in practice. These couple of games have been the first time she’s taken the court with her new teammates.
In the Trojans season opener against Cal State Northridge, Watts finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. She followed that up with a game-high 14 points and 12 rebounds against Virginia.
She hasn’t shot particularly well from distance yet, she’s 3-13 from three-point range on the season so far, but outside shooting has always been one of her strengths. She was a great shooter during her North Carolina days and USC head coach Mark Trakh is confident it will carry over.
“She’s going to be really good for us. She can hit the three, she can handle the ball and she can defend,” Trakh told High Post Hoops. “She was the leading three-point shooter in the ACC, I see a lot from her. She’s a leader, the kids love her, she’s done a really good job for us. I’m excited about what she’s going to do this year.”
Watts is still getting used to game speed again due to her foot injury, and she echoes Trakh’s sentiments about the key components she’ll bring to the team.
“I just got out of my boot maybe like a week ago so I’m just kind of making my way back and being able to go game speed again,” Watts said. “But I feel like I bring a lot of energy on defense and offense, and my shooting. As the season continues, I’m excited for what I can bring to the team scoring-wise and defensively.”
Despite being a young team, the Trojans have a nice collection of talent on the roster. Senior forward Kayla Overbeck made her season debut against Virginia after sitting out against CSUN, and redshirt sophomore guard Shalexxus Aaron has yet to suit up after making a solid impact last year. They’ve got strong production so far from the freshmen group, particularly Alissa Pili and Endyia Rogers.
As Watts continues to get acclimated to the team, she’s eager to see how well this group can mesh together when at full strength. She’s confident that being the veteran on the team, she can adapt to whatever style they want to play and blend her game with her teammates.
Sometimes that might mean taking a step back scoring-wise a focusing on being the defensive stopper. Or it could mean acting as a spot-up shooter and knocking down open threes off teammates passes.
“I know as the season goes on, my shot will get better and the team will mesh. I’m excited to bring a lot of experience on defense and helping everyone get situated,” Watts said. “I think I’ve come a long way with my defense, I feel like I bring a lot of energy on defense. And I feel like my shot has gotten better and better.”
Although she is a newcomer, one other area that Watts will be able to help USC is with her leadership. She has the most college basketball experience out of anyone on the team and she’s looking forward to continuing to grow as a leader, and in turn, learn from her new teammates.
“They still come up to me in-game and ask where they should be and things like that,” Watts said. “I feel like I need to help them, and they can help me see different things too. I definitely play a leadership role on the team, so I try to help everyone be in the right spots.”
This will be Watts’ final season of college basketball, and like most players at this level, she does have dreams of playing professionally. She’s done a lot thus far in her career to perhaps draw awareness from pro teams, but she knows a lot will depend on the type of season she has.
“That’s something I definitely plan on doing. I just have to have a good season, play hard, and bring my all every single game,” Watts said. “I’m excited for the future and next possibilities, but right now I’m focused on one game at a time.”
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.