Anton Watson hasn’t graduated high school, but he already has a place in the record books.
On Jan. 22, in a 66-45 win over North Central, the Gonzaga Prep senior scored his 991st point and moved into fifth on the boys all-time scoring list in the Greater Spokane League.
Watson “only” scored 12 points that night, but in his final three regular-season league games he added 19, 25 and 23 points to finish his GSL career with 1,066 points, nine shy of fourth-place Brendan Ingebritsen of Mead, who graduated in 2008.
Watson will continue his education and basketball career at Gonzaga next season.
He’ll be joined by another prolific state scorer – fellow Zags recruit Brock Ravet of Kittitas, who last week became the all-time leading scorer in state basketball history, eclipsing Sunnyside Christian’s Lance Den Boer’s previous total of 2,851. Ravet, a four-year starter, finished with 35 points that night.
Watson’s season high of 36 points came on opening night Dec. 4, a 64-44 win over Mt. Spokane on the road. It’s been the Wildcats’ only loss of the season.
Here are some recollections of the greatest scorers in GSL history by the players on the list, the coaches who guided them or the writers that described the action:
Phenom staying home
Matty McIntyre has been coach of G-Prep (18-2, 14-0) for 10 seasons, with a 210-42 career record, two state championships, two third-place finishes and a sixth.
McIntyre said Watson uses his head as much as his hands and feet on the court
“I think first you have to look at his intelligence – his basketball IQ,” McIntyre said. “He is one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. It seems like he sees the game, in all areas, a few seconds earlier than everyone else.
“He has a knack for understanding the flow of the game and where there’s opportunities to score.”
Watson, who grew an inch and put on 10-15 pounds between his junior and senior year, has made the transition from promising young athlete to bona fide Division I college prospect.
McIntyre described the process.
“Over the course of the last four years, he’s really developed a complete game where he’s able to step out and make 3-pointers, or he can post up on the low block and has a variety of moves from there. He’s a threat from anywhere on the floor.”
Not only is Watson a danger to score every time he touches the ball – whether it’s a 3 or a rim-rattling dunk – McIntyre said he’s a true team player on offense.
“What makes him so valuable is if people try to double-team him, he’s got some of the best passing vision I’ve ever seen and he’s going to make sure that he finds the open man for a really easy shot,” he said. … “I think that kind of plays to his advantage where teams might be a little bit more scared to double-team him because he’s such a great passer.”
The combination of skills – and his pure athleticism – leads many to believe Watson will play anywhere from the 2, 3 or 4 once he transitions to Gonzaga.
“I think the game of basketball is trending toward being positionless, where you want guys that can dribble, shoot, post up …” McIntyre said. “I think Anton fits very nice into the new basketball system being positionless.”
Before the arc
Three decades later, a few of us Luddites still haven’t made lasting peace with the 3-point basket. That isn’t necessarily inconsistent with regretting that high school basketball didn’t adopt it a few years sooner – if only for David Sanders’ sake.
Even without it, he left Central Valley in 1985 as the GSL record-holder in season and career points. In claiming the first record, he pushed aside a fellow named John Stockton and held it for 16 years.
If his numbers have been eclipsed, he endures as the GSL’s prototypical long-range marksman. With all respect to the big guys who eventually climbed past him on those lists – Jeff Brown, Josh Heytvelt, Sean Mallon, Adam Morrison – if you’ve seen “Hoosiers” too many times, this is how we think of our high school scorers.
Balance, lift, release, extension – all honed in his driveway, wearing out rims, nets and backboards.
“A pro shooter,” his high school coach, Terry Irwin, once said, “in high school.”
Even if he never made a 3.
—Spokesman-Review columnist John Blanchette
Sean Mallon graduated from Ferris in 2002, played at Gonzaga and returned to his high school alma mater as coach in 2016. He’s still No. 3 on the list and coached Mike Irvin and Shamrock Campbell, 2018 grads who are 11th and 12th, respectively.
As a “big,” he started his career gathering points in the paint, but as his game developed he became more of a well-rounded scorer.
“It started like that, a little bit,” Mallon said. “But then I would step out and shoot more. We played a lot of high-low, because I played with another really good big guy. So by senior year, I was the guy that would pop out. I would play high a lot and face the basket.”
Mallon coaches on a gym floor named after his high school coach, Wayne Gilman.
“If I’m honest, it was a little bit weird when I came back to Ferris when I got into education, when I was doing my student teaching here, and then got hired here,” he said. “It’s one of those things, you get over pretty quickly.”
Mallon said he doesn’t contemplate the idea of being the third-highest scorer in one of the toughest leagues in the state.
“I think of my high school career in terms of things I learned from my coaches, my teammates – things like that,” he said. “But records and stuff, I don’t really ever think about it.”
“I was way more excited for Shamrock and Mike to move up the list last year than I ever was being on it myself.”
All-time work ethic
Glenn Williams is in his 20th season as coach of the Mead boys team. He had the privilege and responsibility of coaching the greatest scorer in the history of the league.
“What made Adam (Morrison) such a great high school scorer would be a tremendous work ethic,” Williams said. “Hours and hours of repetition. He had a preternatural talent to score the ball.”
Williams added that one of Morrison’s biggest strengths was his versatility.
“He could make the 3, and he could finish at the rim, and he of course had an uncanny ability to hit the midrange, which is now starting to become almost a shunned shot.
“But Adam had the ability to score the ball from all areas of the court.”
Williams admitted how easy it was to call plays for a player that was so instinctual.
“It’s a huge luxury for a coach,” Williams said, “to be able to put down 28 points every night and know you’re going to get that as an average.
“People said that he’s just got that touch, but that touch was honed by thousands of repetitions. Maybe he has some things you can’t coach or teach, but much of that is self-made. It was just him putting in the time.”
The forgotten scorer
Scotty Livengood is third on the career scoring list. The Rogers grad is somewhat of a forgotten man when it comes to the GSL all-time greats. He didn’t play in college and by his own account wasn’t really actively recruited.
But he could score.
“I’ve heard from other people that their whole game plan was just to stop me,” he said.
But they couldn’t.
“No. Not really,” he replied, chuckling. “Not trying to be cocky or anything.”
Livengood said it was his flexibility leading to matchup problems – and his willingness to shoot – that made him such a dangerous scorer.
“If they were smaller, I would be able to post them up or use my strength. If they put somebody tall and bigger on me, I would just be able to drive around them, or use my quickness.
“I would just try to take what the defense would give me.”
Livengood is good-natured about his position on the list.
“I guess it’s a good list to be on behind somebody who played in the NBA and someone else who started all four years at Gonzaga, but I just didn’t get the chance to go play beyond high school,” he said.
How does a kid who was No. 3 in the league in scoring not get a chance at the next level?
“The only thing I could really think of is lack of exposure,” Livengood said. “Maybe because we never made the playoffs with Rogers.
“I had scouts that would come to my game. I just don’t know why I didn’t get any offers.”
Girls got game
It’s the second straight season a GSL player broke into the top five on a scoring list – CV’s Lexie Hull finished her career at No. 4 on the girls list with 1,141 league points – and more than 1,800 total points – after the 2017-18 season.
Hull and twin sister Lacie are now freshmen on the Stanford women’s team.
Former CV girls coach Freddie Rehkow coached – and coached against – a lot of talented scorers in his time on the bench for the Bears.
“The one thing that set (Lexie) apart was just her relentless confidence and just a hard and difficult person to keep from getting to the basket,” Rehkow said. “She could play inside, could play outside – but just that drive and that passion that she had. She scored 1,800 points in our system but if she played anywhere else, she probably would have been over 2,000 probably 2,300 by the time she was done.”
Rehkow said Lacie Hull was an unsung hero for his teams.
“Lacey could have averaged 20 points a game, easily,” he said. “But Lacey didn’t have to and she didn’t feel like she had to. I think that’s what separates some of these elite scorers from others, is a lot of them were able to get theirs just in the way the game went.”
Here are Rehkow’s impressions of some of the other great girls scorers in league history.
On Angie Bjorklund: “She wasn’t real quick, however, she had good handles and could create that midrange or get to the basket. She would just give you a little up-fake, cross you over a little bit and then either pull up or get to the basket.”
On Briann January: “Motor. That kid just ran the show. You got so used to trying to defend her passing and her drives that she learned to just kind of blow by and then pull up. Had a nice little floater. She was just tough. She could take contact and finish.”
On Emily Westerberg: “She was a lot like Lacie and Lexie – very thin, wiry. However, very crafty. She was a smooth lefty that people would literally go out and get super physical with, hoping that it would deter her from from taking care of business, but yet she had a midrange game and she was crafty to get inside.”
On Jacinta Buckley: “Jacinta, she’s just kind of the ‘Big Smooth.’ She started out a lot mostly inside. Now she’s extended it to 3-point range, and so that’s made her more difficult to guard for a lot of people if you can play inside, play outside.”
On Aspyn Adams: “She’s a 3-point shooter. She’s got a nice little step back that will create a little bit of space, but she’s just one of those shooters – you know she can shoot and I think what most people in the league have a problem with is recognizing her range.”
Hovren fills it up
A day will come when someone will break the GSL scoring record set by Madison Hovren.
But it will take a four-year starter who’s as gritty and determined as Hovren was game to game.
When the ball went inside to the 5-10 post – yes 5-10, even though she was listed as 6-0 – it was the closest thing to a guaranteed two points, either by way of free throws or a basket.
The left-hander likely would have finished with more career points had CV had deep postseason runs like the Hull twins-era teams that followed.
Hovren is a senior playing for Army, where she is averaging a double-double.
She plays with such a confidence that she believes every time she shoots she should make the shot.
That makes sense, because at CV she was a perfectionist. She had straight As.
“In anything I do, I’m going to give my best and I expect the best,” Hovren said in a story in The Spokesman- Review published Dec. 18, 2014.
–Greg Lee, former Spokesman-Review preps writer