Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Koita, Watson Finding Success in New Sports

We can label the following information as "Old Faces in New Places."

It wasn't hard to see that Mo Koita, a 6-foot-4 reserve guard at Manhattan this past season, had a rare level of athleticism.

It wasn't quite enough to get the senior regular playing time (he averaged about 13 minutes, while recording 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game), but it has been more than enough for him to find considerable success off the basketball court.

After hoops season ended Koita joined the Jaspers' men's outdoor track & field team.

Three weeks into his foray into that sport he made school history.

Koita recently set a school record while wining the Eastern high jump at the prestigious Penn Relays, clearing the bar at 7-feet-2 1/2 to break the meet record in the event.

The "Eastern" event is a regional-level of competition in the Penn Relays. Still, Koita's height would have placed him second in the event's "Championship" division. And, it broke a 33-year old Manhattan school record.

Koita's jump achieved the qualifying standard for the World University Games, which will be held in Kazan, Russia from July 6-17. He's currently ranked 12th in the NCAA and tied for 31st place on the 2013 world outdoor list. Not bad for someone competing in the event for just three weeks.

And, then, there's the relatively unique progression of Menelik Watson, a former power forward (with the emphasis on "power") at Marist.

Watson spent two years with the Red Foxes, redshirting in the 2009-10 season and exhibiting considerable potential in the 2010-11 season when he averaged 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

In one post-season report, we identified Watson as a 6-foot-8, 270-pound "man mountain" of an inside player.

Watson's physical dimensions have changed considerably since then, after he transferred from Marist to Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, Calif. After one year there he moved on to Florida State where he became a starter on the offensive line and an All-ACC honoree.

These days, Watson is listed as 6-foot-5 (goes to show that basketball heights are just a little exaggerated) and about 310 pounds.

And, it looks like he made the right move. He was a second-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders in the recent NFL draft and is projected to step into that team's starting job at right tackle.

Here's the NFL.com's pre-draft projection on Watson:

STRENGTHS: A physical specimen. Great size, and tremendously athletic. Explosive first step. Good foot quickness. Showcases mobility and range as a blocker. Able to get to the second level and make cut off blocks. Flexible, bends well. Powerful punch.

WEAKNESSES: Still raw, limited football experience. Older than ideal (will turn 25 before the 2013 season). Hand placement is poor. Often hits outside the frame and will have a tendency to get overly grabby. Will result in ore penalties in the NFL. Needs to play with a wider base. Inconsistent with his footwork.

BOTTOM LINE: Watson has rare athletic ability on a tremendous frame. He has an explosive first step, light feet and a powerful punch. There are a lot of things in his game that need to be cleaned up from a technique standpoint, and he will be 25 years old in his rookie season. He can project to either tackle spot, or possibly even inside, at guard.

1 comment:

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