Thursday was the last day students had to be in school, so Bradwell Institute basketball coach Pete Woodard made sure two of his players finished something about as important as their final exams. On Wednesday, Woodard gathered Da’zjon Tinae and Jalen Watson, along with their family and friends, to complete their paperwork and sign letters of intent to take their hoop skills to the next level.
Tiger Da’zjon Tinae penned his name with St. Andrews Presbyterian College in North Carolina. Jalen Watson will take his skills to Swainsboro, playing for East Georgia College coach Neil Bailey.
Woodard said it was the first time in three years the Tigers had players receive scholarship offers and he thinks it had a lot to do with how well the Tigers did this season and how well Tinae and Watson played.
“The fact that we did advance to the state playoffs for the first time since 1998 speaks for itself,” Woodard said, adding they had three Tigers make All-Region and three who made the All-Tournament team this year.
“And we never had that since I’ve been at Bradwell,” he said. “It feels good to know that we had some players who stepped up this year that got us where we are…
“We have these two young men signing … Even when Coach (David) Jones was here we usually only had one player that would sign. This year we have two and there is the possibility of a third signing, but I haven’t received the information yet.”
Tinae said he attend a recent basketball camp, “And I woke up the next morning and had a text inviting me to see the campus. He said he immediately went on St. Andrews’ website and liked what the college offered academically and the basketball program. He said the coaching staff at St. Andrews described him as a good guard and academically intelligent. Tinae said he wants to major in business and minor in law.
Watson said coach Neil Bailey spoke to him about coming on board as a power forward and small forward.
“He (coach Bailey) told me to work on my ball handling skills, my footwork and increase my cardio,” Watson said. “He said he likes the way I hustle to the ball, my defensive play and my rebounding skills.”
Watson said he plans to attend the summer session at EGC to get a head start on his studies and hit the weight room to develop more strength and muscle.
He plans to study physical therapy and social science.
“I actually leave next Sunday,” he said.
Watson’ dad Curtis was teaching art at Tulane University and was unable to attend his son’s signing, but will be home for his graduation and the family plans to celebrate the momentous occasion together.
“He’s ecstatic about it,” Watson’s mother Lovette said. “And it means the world to me, I’m excited. But school work is still important. Education first, play hard second.”
AAU basketball coach Cedric Robertson, of the Hinesville Blazers, said he was Watson’s first AAU coach.
“And to see him advance to the next level now makes me very proud,” Robertson said. “I’m very proud of my program and to see one of my own take it to the next level.”
Marcus Scott, founder of the Scott’s All-Stars AAU basketball program said Watson and Tinae played on his high school age team last year. The All-Stars’ motto is education first and Scott said the boys placed course work before court work and signing letters of intent proves that they stand by the motto.
“Both of these players are good kids and understand the importance of education,” Scott said. “So I know they are going to stay focused and make sure their academics come first. They just have to realize that nobody is holding their hands anymore and they have to study on their own.”
BI assistant basketball coach Henry Blair watched both young men come up the ranks throughout their high school career. He said the boys have to get ready for their next career at the college level.
“Athletically they are where they need to be,” Blair said. “However when they get to the college level they are young men going into a man’s world. They have to pack on some more muscles and they have to get quicker because the game is a lot faster at that level.”
Assistant coach Tony Mills said he is happy and proud for both young men, especially Watson.
“The big boy really worked hard and I’m a big guy myself and I’m just very proud that he is signing on,” Mills said. “I know that both of these players will do what they have to do in getting physical and building up to what they are about to encounter. They are ready for it.”
Tinae said he will be prepping all summer.
“I need to get in the weight room and I need to work on my ball handling skills,” Tinae said. “I’m going to work hard and work my way up.”
Senior season stats
Dazjon Tinae: 18.5 ppg and 7.8 rbg and 70% free throw
Jalen Watson: 9. 8 ppg and 9.5 rbg and 2.3 blk pg