John A. Logan hoopster aims to leave dominant mark on women's team
John A. Logan guard Tiaunna Watkins didn't always have a good relationship with the sport of basketball -- or even with the ball itself.
“I was so bad at basketball when I first started,” Watkins told Southwest Illinois News. “I remember how I used to duck and dodge away from the ball anytime it came near me.”
However, since picking up the sport in the fourth grade after originally playing volleyball, her career has gone from being concerned about the ball to opponents being concerned about her. In her first eight games of the season, Watkins, a sophomore from Hot Springs, Arkansas, was notching 21.6 points per contest, a number topped nationally only by Jas Hill of Tallahassee (22.6) and Shala Dobbins of Wabash Valley (22.1). She had made 54.5 percent of her field-goal attempts, including 38.5 percent of her three-point shots. She also hit 74.1 percent of her free throws.
Almost all of her shooting numbers through the first eight games of this season were improvements over her freshman season. In the 2015-16 campaign, she averaged 18.2 points on 42.8 percent field-goal shooting and 31.6 percent three-point shooting. Only her free-throw percentage (75.2) was higher last season.
JAL Head Coach Amanda Shelby told Southwest Illinois News that Watkins this season has picked up where she left off in her freshman year.
“You can tell that over the summer, she got into the gym and really stepped up her offensive skills,” Shelby said. “Tiaunna has a strong desire to win and will do whatever she can to make that happen …taking the ball to the rack and getting the contact to go to the FT, knocking down the three-bomb, or being aggressive on 'D' and getting the steal.”
Watkins also was averaging 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals a game this season.
About the only thing Watkins has collected more of than points in her career seems to be accolades.
At Hot Springs High School, Watkins was all-conference and all-state her junior and senior seasons, in addition to numerous other honors. She also led her squad to the 5A state title as a senior.
Then Watkins received a phone call from Shelby, who explained her interest in having Watkins come to JAL.
“I visited and fell in love with the school,” Watkins said.
Watkins said she feels her leadership skills have improved since arriving at JAL.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger and smarter about what to do in certain game situations,” Watkins said.
Watkins said she does not know what school she will move on to after this season. However, Shelby said wherever Watkins lands, that program will be happy.
“Her growth in leadership and knowledge of the game has really improved since first stepping on campus,” Shelby said. “I look forward to seeing what her sophomore season brings and what university she continues her career at. They will be getting an extremely talented, remarkable young lady.”
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