Teaching the game could become a future for Libertyville's Watson

  • Libertyville's Jackson Watson dribbles up court against Buffalo Grove Wednesday. Watson has taken his lifelong basketball knowledge to another level by teaching the game to aspiring younger players.

      Libertyville's Jackson Watson dribbles up court against Buffalo Grove Wednesday. Watson has taken his lifelong basketball knowledge to another level by teaching the game to aspiring younger players. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Updated 2/7/2020 9:35 PM

Like many boys, Jackson Watson learned how to play sports from his dad.

Basketball is dad Steve Watson's specialty.


"My dad played basketball in college at Bowling Green and then overseas for like seven years," Watson said of his 6-foot-8 dad, who played in France, Taiwan and Portugal. "I learned to shoot from my dad, and he has the most perfect shooting form I've ever seen."

Shooting is now Jackson Watson's specialty at Libertyville.

The 6-foot-1 senior guard is one of the top 3-point shooters for the 14-8 Wildcats and is averaging about 11 points per game.

Someday, Watson hopes to pass down his dad's shooting form to his own kids. For now, he'll pass it down to his "basketball kids."

Watson put on his thinking cap last summer when he was trying to decide what kind of part-time job he could get to fit around his busy schedule of basketball camps and summer league games.

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Now, he is one of the most popular teenagers in town with grade school and middle school basketball players, all of whom want to work with him to improve their games, particularly their shooting touch.

"I had worked some of our summer camps for kids at school for our feeder program and it was so fun. I had the best time and built up a lot of good relationships with the kids and their parents," Watson said. "So I made up some fliers and I gave them to all the kids and parents at our camps and the fliers were about how I could train kids in basketball, $10 an hour per person for small groups and $15 per person for individuals."

Watson's email and phone were buzzing.

"A bunch of kids and their parents responded," Watson said. "It really kicked up by the end of the summer, and by the fall, when kids were trying to get ready for feeder tryouts, I was doing sessions every day after school, at the kids' houses in their driveways, or at a gym if they had a membership. It's been really cool to see the kids who have stuck with it."

Watson plans to stick with his side gig for as long as possible. He'll be going off to college in the fall, but he figures this could be a good summer job.


"I really like it and I was surprised at how well it went," Watson said. "I thought I would have a tough time coming up with stuff to do. I thought it would be hard to fill up an hour. But I just went on the fly and as I got to know the kids and understand what they wanted to work on, the drills just kind of came to me and I had plenty for them to do. I couldn't believe how fast an hour flew by. It all came so naturally for me because I've been around basketball so much."

Watson, who often gets cheered on at Libertyville basketball games by some of his pupils, got introduced to basketball through his dad, and then kept growing his knowledge and interest in the game by following his dad around.

Watson's dad Steve is currently the athletic director at Loyola University in Chicago. Steve has been working in college athletics most of his adult life, and, through various jobs, has taken his family to stops at the University of Dayton, Eastern Michigan and St. Bonaventure before settling in Rogers Park about four years ago.

"I grew up mostly in New York when my dad was at St. Bonaventure, that was his first job as athletic director," Watson said. "I was the floor sweeper at St. Bonaventure (basketball) games for four years when I was younger. That was a lot of fun. I loved it. Wherever my dad is at, I become a huge fan."

That was especially true in 2018 when the Loyola men's basketball team made a magical and historic run to the Final Four.

"It was so cool when they made that Final Four run. I went to every tournament game that year. I missed so much school, but it was so worth it," Watson said. "I know the coach really well and I've gotten to know the players. We went to one of their scouts and watched a film session. I've gotten to shoot before when they've been in the gym. I've grown up wanting to play college basketball and it's been neat to be around it my whole life as much as I have."

Watson says his dream school is Bowling Green, where his dad and mom Ann, a cheerleader at Bowling Green, went.

"But if I play in college, it would probably be at the Division II or Division III level," Watson said. "So I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do."

Watson, who carries a 4.25 grade-point average with two AP classes and is in National Honor Society, says he's also not sure yet about a major, or a career.

But he recently discovered that one occupation in particular could be in his future.

"I definitely could see myself coaching at some point. I think I learned this summer that I like it and that I could do it," Watson said. "I think I was good with the kids. If you listen to the kids and make it fun, they learn faster and better."

But the kids aren't the only ones who learned a thing or two.

"I kind of feel like coaching basketball is a lot like teaching someone a math problem," Watson said. "The more you explain it and work on it with someone, the better you get at that math problem yourself. I feel like my game has improved, too, since I started coaching.

"I learned while I was coaching and teaching and it made me want to work on my game too."

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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