The story of Ohio State’s Makayla Waterman is testament again that sometimes all a basketball player needs is an opportunity to prove herself worthy in a clutch situation.
That’s what Waterman did in the Big Ten tournament, becoming a key bench performer who delivered when the Buckeyes were in need because of an injury to regular Asia Doss. Her play helped boost OSU to the tournament championship and also elevated her in the thoughts of coach Kevin McGuff headed toward an NCAA Tournament opener Saturday against George Washington in St. John Arena.
“She was outstanding in Indianapolis; in particular that first half against Maryland, she was great,” McGuff said Thursday. “I think she’s going to be a big key for us in the NCAA Tournament.”
>> Video | Makayla Waterman talks about the upcoming tournament
Waterman, a junior forward from Kettering Fairmont, always thought she was capable of being more than a defensive specialist. Her three baskets in the first half against Maryland in the title game proved that.
“Having Asia down, we all knew that we had to step up a little bit to fill her void,” the 6-foot-2 Waterman said. “And personally, I didn’t want to lose to Minnesota and Maryland because we beat Minnesota by a lot during the regular season and we lost to Maryland by like 30.
“I feel like all of us stepped up, but my teammates were giving me a lot of confidence, which helps me a lot. Once we start hyping each other up and giving each other energy, that kind of helps my confidence and my flow.”
The team’s star, Kelsey Mitchell, was not surprised.
“I was so proud of KK,” Mitchell said. “She had that comfortable state of mind, which she had when we were growing up playing against each other and sometimes with each other. That being said, a lot of her moves were old KK for me. … It was good to see her expand her horizons a little bit and take those shots without thinking about it, making those moves without second-guessing.”
Waterman just had to wait a few years to show it. In 97 career games, she has averaged 15.2 minutes, 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
“It would be tougher if we didn’t have such a good roster,” she said. “Everybody on our team is very talented, so when you’re among great players it’s a lot easier. … My role is go in, play defense, get stops, bring energy.”
Waterman has never been considered an offensive threat, “but (it was) because she was stuck in a certain role and it was hard to see it,” Mitchell said. “In that game when we needed her the most, she showed up and showed out, so hopefully that was the eye-opener for everybody that she’s a well-rounded player.
“And who knows what could happen next? She’s going to come in clutch for us in a lot of these games.”
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