Kylee Watson Returns Home From Argentina with Gold
Not many 15-year old high school girls will ever get the chance to travel and play basketball in Argentina.
Not many 15-year old girls will ever get the opportunity to represent their country.
No many 15-year olds can play basketball like Kylee Watson.
Watson got to experience it all as a member of the USA Women’s Under-16 team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championships in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
"It was so incredible, so humbling, just an incredible, amazing experience," Watson said while appearing as a guest on the South Jersey Sports Report on 97.3 ESPN.
The Mainland girls basketball star, who just completed here freshman year with the Mustangs, returned home wearing red, white and blue with gold around her neck on Tuesday to a hero's welcome in Linwood.
She signed autographs and waved to the many people who supported her as she represented not only the country but her community. The 6-foot-4 Watson is used to having people look up to her, but having the admiration of the entire community was something she really didn't expect.
"People were asking me for autographs and stuff," Watson laughed. "It's been really nice, all the support everyone has given me. Seeing that they really look up to me is really, really nice."
This year has been a whirlwind for the Mainland star. She entered the high school ranks with plenty of fanfare, before she ever stepped on a high school basketball court. For many all that attention before you ever play a high school varsity game could be a distraction, but Watson used it to her advantage.
"I wouldn't say I was nervous," said Watson about entering the year with so much attention. "I kind of embraced it and used it as motivation to play well and show people what I can do."
Her hard work paid off, she completed her freshman campaign averaging an impressive 16.4 points, nine rebounds and 2.3 blocks for a Mustangs team that reached the South Jersey Group III final going 22-7.
The process of representing the country was not an easy one, a little less than 150 girls tried out for 12 spots on the prestigious national team, with the top girls basketball players from all over the United States vying for a roster spot.
"I knew it was going to be super competitive," Watson acknowledged. "I went in knowing that even if I didn't make the team that I was going to walk away with tons of learning experience and tons more knowledge than when I came.
"The competitiveness was a little more than I expected," she added.
But as the cuts kept coming, Watson's name never appeared on the list, from 133, down to 88, into the 40's, 20's and all the way down to the final 12, she proved she was one of the elite girls basketball players in the entire country.
"It was very nerve-wracking, walking down to the dorm where the sign was posted with all the names." Watson admitted. "But once you see your name on the list, its so rewarding."
Once she made the team, the next step was bringing her best to the floor day-in-and-day-out.
But it wasn't an easy process, as she tried to make the team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she had very little contact with her parents; Courtney and Tim, both Mainland alums.
Instead, every day was spent being challenged to the max by the very best competition her age group had to offer.
"It was definitely a new experience for me, to have basketball every single day," Watson explained. "
Then there was her experience traveling and playing basketball in Argentina, which was an unique in itself.
"It was absolutely crazy," Watson said with excitement in her voice. "I never thought that I would be there, just to be representing the USA in Argentina - unbelievable. It was just an incredible experience that I never thought I would be honored to be a part of."
Watson averaged 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as team USA defeated Canada in the Gold medal game.