ACC’s Top-100: No. 85 Justin Watts, North Carolina


For a three-star recruit coming out of high school, there are always tough choices to make. A three-star player can certainly shine at a school like North Carolina, but they’ll be competing with a lot more heralded four and five-star players. Whereas if they had gone to a smaller school, they could not only start, but potentially be a star. This is the story of one such kid.

PLAYER: Justin Watts
POSITION: Guard/Forward
TEAM: North Carolina
YEAR: Senior
TAPE: 6-4, 210
TWITTER: @MyNameisJWatts

2010-11 STATS: 1.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg (.375/.533/.333)

Justin Watts is a classic case of a talented player, yet not elite, who probably could have gotten more playing time (and more props) if he had picked somewhere else other than North Carolina to play.

Having said that, he’s never complained and there’s never been a rumor about him transferring. That should tell you something about this young man.

Justin Watts came to North Carolina as part of a stellar 2008 recruiting class that also featured Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew. At 6-4, he is officially a shooting guard but the Tar Heels are stacked at that spot. Thankfully coach Roy Williams has been able to take advantage of Watts’ biggest strength…his versatility.

This past season Watts play just under 10 minutes per game, often subbing in for Harrison Barnes or John Henson. It’s a lot to ask from a guy standing 3-4 inches shorter than the man he was often guarding, yet it was rare to watch Watts on the court and think, man he looks overmatched.

For those in Chapel Hill familiar with Watts’ game, this probably won’t surprise them.

Athletic, smart and savvy, he is the ultimate role player. On the defensive end, he’s great at finding his spot and understands how to play straight-up defense. He doesn’t try to get fancy with steals (only nine in three seasons) or blocks (11 total).

Offensively he can shoot a jumper and he’ll launch some threes (21 attempts last year), but he works best letting other player-makers do their thing, freeing up Watts for open looks when those players get doubled up. He also proved to be a timely rebounder, averaging about two per game in his 10 minutes on the court.

In the end, 2011-2012 will look at lot like last year for Watts. With just about everyone returning, the Tar Heels will again be loaded, although a little thin with big men on the bench. With the addition of James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, Watts will probably again be the fifth option off the bench. He’ll find his minutes when either Henson or Zeller take a break, moving Barnes to the 4-spot. This should give Watts 8-10 as a small forward.

While Watts won’t ever get his jersey huge up in the rafters, he does have a legit shot at earning his second national championship. Not a lot of Tar Heels can say that.