Molly Rainwater knows it’s only a matter of time.
The Cardinal Newman girls basketball coach expects to see Ashlyn Watkins dunk in a game at some point in her career. Rainwater thought it might come Saturday during the Cardinals’ game against Dreher in the Crescent Construction MLK Bash at Eau Claire High School.
The 6-foot-2 eighth-grader had a breakaway late in the game, but a Dreher defender was able to catch up to her and foul her.
“Everyone gets excited when she gets a breakaway layup. Everyone kind of raises up and our bench gets energy from that,” Rainwater said. “I have given her the green light, so she can do it. It is a matter of time.”
Rainwater said Watkins has dunked in practice a couple of times. As an 11-year-old, she dunked on a 9-foot goal at an all-star event and it appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Last summer, Watkins dunked at Pooh Abrams “Hoopology” camp in Columbia, and it also made national news.
“It was kind of fun because at first I didn’t know I could do it, but when I made it I was excited,” Watkins said.
But it is more than Watkins’ dunking ability that has college coaches taking notice. Gamecocks assistant coach Jolette Law was there to watch her play Saturday, and Watkins has been to USC on multiple occasions. Several other Division I schools also are recruiting her, but she said it is too early to have a favorite.
Watkins is in her first year at Cardinal Newman after attending Blythewood Middle School last year. Entering Saturday’s game, she was averaging 14.7 points and 12.1 rebounds
Against Dreher, Watkins didn’t disappoint as she scored 9 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked eight shots in the 53-30 win. On several of her blocked shots, Watkins was able to start the Cardinals’ fast break.
“She can block a shot and go coast to coast. She can do the high-low, which is real special,” Rainwater said. “At some point, I want to get her on the perimeter to shoot the 3s.”
Rainwater knows that an outside shot will come, as will other parts of her game. She reminds herself that Watkins is just an eighth-grader and avoids comparisons with others, including such A’ja Wilson, the former Heathwood Hall standout who has become one of the best women’s college basketball players in the country.
“She is Ashlyn Watkins, and she is herself, and let’s keep it that way,” Rainwater said.
Watkins agrees and is taking all the attention she has received so far in stride.
“I’m just trying to play to my full potential and play like I know I could play, play hard every game,” Watkins said.
Crescent Construction MLK Bash Results
Cardinal Newman 53, Dreher 30
CN: Mya Parter 11, Boyer 2, Tyra Beadle 17, Watkins 9, Meyers 6, Hogan 2, A. Etter 4, D. Etter 2. D: Brown 4, Sumter 5, Williams 4, Scott 2, English 2, Jones 5, Burton 8.
Richland Northeast 64, Swansea 26
S: Gillings 9, Lowman 3, Danae McNeal 13, Hampton 1. RNE: Jackson 8, Windley 6, Wright 5, Sharita Godfrey 18, Taylor Britt 13, Brown 9, Lane 3, McFadden 2.
Spring Valley 68, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 33
OW: Brunson 4, D’mya Tucker 10, Riers 9, Darby 8, Stroman 2. SV: Taylor Lewis 15, Kristian Wall 11, Coleman 5, Taylor 5, Ashley Williamson 18, Tykiera Wiley 13, Etheridge 1.
Westwood 70, Lower Richland 41
LR: Washington 2, Canty 7, Brooks 1, Smith 5, Nelson 6, Zhalya Adams 16, Kelley 4. W: Etheredge 7, Unique Drake 32, Lockett 7, Leveretter 5, Mya Belton 15, Frederick 4.
Wilson 53, Ridge View 38
W: Loyal McQueen Jones 8, Baker 2, Nowlin 6, D’Asia Gregg 18, Williams 4. RV: Bolden 8, Acox 7, Whitmore 1, Harts 4, Keller 7, Standifer 2, Scott 5, Wade 4.