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January 24, 2014

Neil Watson Leads USM to Fast Start

Many people didn't think Neil Watson would be ready to play until about six weeks into this season after he broke his jaw in a weight training accident in the offseason.

The senior point guard was supposed to miss at least that much time, maybe even more, but Watson had different plans. He made rehab his religion, grabbed a Rip Hamilton protective mask from the doctor and walked out of the tunnel opening night knowing he would play.

He saw significant minutes in the Golden Eagles' season opening win over Jackson State and never looked back, guiding his team to a remarkable 17-3 start along with fellow star Michael Craig.

And while Craig may have grabbed the SportsCenter highlights yesterday with yet another earth-shattering dunk, Watson took hold of the stat sheet.

The senior from Kansas City, Kansas put up a career-high 28 points in last night's win over Old Dominion, bringing his Eagles one step closer to an NCAA Tournament berth with a 4-1 record in Conference USA.

Watson also broke the record for most free throws consecutively made in Southern Miss history with 39 and joined the 1,000 point club - only the second Golden Eagle to ever do so. His guard play has been fantastic and his unselfishness is so apparent it drives some people to madness. Watson is always looking for the open man and distributes the ball better than any USM point guard in recent memory.

Without the leadership from this short guy with tall ambition, Southern Miss would not be seated firmly atop C-USA right now. The team also wouldn't have its eyes set on a sacred tournament berth come March.

But Watson has helped his squad size up its competition despite the adversity and has shown everyone that this team is capable of making an NCAA Tournament run.

It's time for the rest of the world to fear the mask.


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