If you’ve been keeping any attention to the early goings of the NCAA basketball season, you’d immediately recognize that point guards have taken center stage. That domination from point guards is clearly evident whether you look at freshmen or upperclassmen.
For the freshmen, the likes of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox have dominated headlines since the start of the season. On the other hand, Monte Morris, Melo Trimble or Frank Mason have been some of the upperclassmen that have maintained their status as the best guards in college basketball.
Even with the spotlight focused on those great college players, there are still some point guards that remain hidden. Much of those players stand as “diamond in the rough” candidates due to either playing at a small mid-major or just not fitting into what NBA scouts want in their modern-day point guard. A player that perfectly fits into that second example is Creighton point guard Maurice Watson.
In the present day where teams around the NBA look for these dual-threat point guards that stand 6’4 with an Antetokounmpo-like wingspan, Watson stands as the antithesis of that. Watson’s stance as the inverse of the norm is due to him being a 5’10 pass-first point guard that really hasn’t showcased much of a perimeter jumper during his college career.
Although his lack of size or a perimeter jumper might scare off some folks, Watson still stands as a player that deserves more recognition than he’s currently getting. That’s due to him absolutely flourishing in his role as a pass-first guard to the point where he currently stands as the best facilitator in college basketball. During the current season, Watson is averaging an NCAA-best 11.9 assists per 40 minutes, while also maintaining a solid 2.25 Ast/TO ratio.
Watson’s status as the best facilitator in college hoops is due to the incredible confidence that he shows on a possession-by-possession basis. On each possession, you get the sense that Watson knows what he’s going to do and who he’s going to facilitate it before Creighton even passes mid-court.
Although that’s definitely a bit of an exaggeration, Watson plays with the kind of poise that usually see from an NBA All-Star point guard. That poise is evident whether Watson is working on the perimeter in pick-and-roll situations or through driving to the paint. Watson’s work in drive-and-dish might actually be his best skill as a facilitator as he showcases incredible awareness of his surroundings while he’s in the process of working towards the paint. His impressive awareness is seen the play below as Watson makes a great chest pass to a teammate positioned on the perimeter.
Through pick-and-rolls, Watson looks like Chris Paul or John Wall with how he starts off with this slow, controlled pace which allows him to look over the court and find the best scoring option. That patience is shown from the moment that he utilizes that initial off-ball screen as Watson takes his time before he decides whether to drive, take the pull up jumper or work it to a screener or perimeter shooter.
As a facilitator, Watson does a great job of being able to capture the attention of the opposing team, which gives that screener time to make a smooth drive to the rim. Watson’s great pick-and-roll patience is evident in the play below as he throws a pretty bounce pass to a Creighton big that set a corner screen for him.
Despite not being the biggest guard or the best perimeter shooter, Maurice Watson has made a name for himself by being the best facilitator in college basketball. Watson displays the kind of patience and court vision that you usually see from an NBA All-Star rather than a 23-year-old guard for Creighton.
Although Watson currently stands as a relative unknown, he has the opportunity to push his way in the spotlight in the upcoming months. As of this piece, Creighton ranks 10th in the country as they head into Big East play. If Watson can carry this immense momentum through conference play and push Creighton to the NCAA Tournament, then the basketball world will need to focus on this current hidden treasure.