Q&A: Zach Fleer on Ibi Watson’s development

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan commitment Ibi Watson was one of the fastest rising class of 2016 prospects on the summer circuit and he’s carried that momentum into his senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing guard has gotten off to a strong start this year at Pickerington Central, most recently tallying 34 points, six assists and five rebounds in a loss to Walnut Ridge. We caught up with Zach Fleer of 270 Hoops — a website dedicated to Columbus-area basketball — to discuss Watson’s development this season.

Fleer has been watching Watson play since before he transferred to Pickerington Central and has seen him in-person twice already this season.

Watson has seemed to be constantly improving since he moved to Pickerington Central, where would you say his game has grown the most since this summer?

Ibi has developed a mean streak of sorts that he didn’t have before — especially when he was a younger player at Athens. When it’s time for him to take over, he takes over. One thing I’ve really noticed about him is that he sees the bigger picture. When he makes big highlight plays — or even when he messes up, you won’t see him show a whole lot of emotion. He’s so focused on improving as a player and getting his team to where they need to be. It’s great to see.

There were times early on in Watson’s career that his motor was questioned by scouts, how has he improved in that department?

Tremendously. I haven’t seen any issues with Ibi’s motor dating back to the summer. He’s been a different player in that regard this year.

What position do you see Watson playing at the next level?

Shooting guard and some small forward. Ibi has pretty good size for the wing at about 6-foot-5, and given his length and athleticism, he can guard either position. Another thing about him is that he’s added a considerable amount of muscle to a frame that he’s still growing into.

Michigan loses its primary creator in Caris LeVert, another Pickerington Central graduate, does Watson have the ability to fill some of that void as a creator or is he more of a shooter and slasher at this stage?

It’s funny you mention Caris. A good friend of mine and expert eye for talent, Kurt Stubbs of JJ Huddle, said that Ibi this season reminds him a lot of Caris back in 2011-12, when it seemed everything had clicked for Caris and he turned into an all-out beast leading Pickerington Central to a state title. I think Ibi has the ability and upside to be a creator at the next level. I’ve seen him play two full games this season, and in those games against teams with multiple Div. I prospects, Ibi has finished with 65 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. He does it all.

In what areas does he need to grow over the next year to make an impact at Michigan next season?

I still think he can improve as a defender, and continue to develop his outside jumper, which he has struggled with at times this season. I also think he has to improve his free throw shooting.

How has Watson developed physically and athletically?

I remember first watching Ibi prior to his sophomore season, and at the time, he was a little known 6’3 wing from Athens (about an hour and a half from Columbus). You could see that he was talented, but not many people at that time thought he would end up where he is now. It’s honestly crazy to see the way his body has changed and the type of elite-level athlete that he’s become. In addition to getting bigger, faster and stronger, Ibi’s added considerable muscle to his frame, which has made him a near impossible matchup for even the best of high school defenders.

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  • Kenny

    My initial reaction to Ibi Watson’s commitment was underwhelming, and felt that he is a big step down from Tyus Battle. But now it seems that Beilein found another late bloomer.

  • Mattski


  • Wayman Britt

    The big question is can Ibi play defense, stay in front of his man and is he tough? Does he shy away from contact like some other current players on the roster?