By Evan Wheaton
Springfield Central’s 75-35 win over Sabis at the 2020 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay was yet another showing of their dominance.
Now sitting at 9-1 on the season, the Golden Eagles are hungrily pursuing their first Division I state title since 2012.
With the football program winning state titles each of the past two seasons, Central Athletics has seen great success in recent times.
“I think Central Athletics is in a great situation, we have a lot of support in the building,” Head Basketball Coach William Watson said. “Administration does a great job with the kids and everything in the building is about the kids. So, it’s not just about winning games, it’s about kids going to college (and) having a bigger plan than just being successful in high school.”
According to Watson, the positive results enjoyed by Central’s youth programs start with Athletic Director Kieth Worthy and Principal Tad Tokarz. With the current administration in place, student-athletes are finding various opportunities once they move on to the collegiate level.
“I think a lot of people see that and they’re getting on board with it,” Watson said. “We have kids from difficult situations going to Ivy League schools, going to schools where they can get a great education and provide for their families and even come back to our community and help the community get better.”
Watson also serves as the offensive coordinator for Central’s football program in the fall before the hoops season begins. His son, William Watson III, plays on both teams. As a father, Watson values the importance of what the student-athletes are gaining in the inner city.
“I think it’s great for the city. It says a lot for the direction of our youth programs, all of the coaches involved with the youth programs, they’re developing enough talent to go around for multiple schools,” he said.
According to Watson, Central, Sci-Tech, Putnam, and Commerce are “all very competitive and playing on an even playing field this year,” and it’s been drawing in a sizeable amount of support from the Springfield community.
This was apparent in Blake Arena during the Central game as the bleachers were flooded with parents and alumni clad in black clothing, thundering in support for the Golden Eagles.
“You see all the old Central, Commerce, Putnam, and Sci-Tech alumni coming out and supporting the kids,” Watson said. “Every time we’ve played another city team it’s been packed. There’s a lot of energy in the building and it’s been a great environment for our kids and a learning experience.”
Watson understands that student-athletes come from different backgrounds, and some may be more challenging than others. But for those that pass through Central Athletics, or any of the Springfield high schools, and move on to the collegiate level to compete, they all share his belief in their abilities
With the current state of Springfield youth programs, Watson has a strong sense for life after high school.
“Whoever comes out of this city will be battle tested.”
If they compete the way Central does, they may very well be.
Photos Courtesy of Joe Arruda