His first two years of high school, Woodbridge guard Maurice Watkins underwent knee surgery, suffered two sprained hand ligaments, broke a finger and broke a foot.
This is the player Vikings boys basketball coach Will Robinson now raves about having a "body by Tonka"? There for a while, Watkins was more sputtering jalopy than roaring truck.
"I blame myself," said Watkins, now a senior many consider the top returning guard in the Cardinal District. "I didn't take care of myself at the time. I wasn't drinking any milk or water. Then I finally learned that if you drink milk, lift weights and take care of your body, you won't get as many injuries. I saw that last year."
So did the Cardinal. Watkins, the only first-team All-Extra player who was not a senior, averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the district regular season champion Vikings. He poured in 44 points in a game at Hylton, an area scoring high in 1998-99.
What most impressed Robinson about that 44-point game was that the six-foot Watkins scored in so many ways--layups with each hand, by posting up, three-pointers, two-pointers, free throws, in every way but a dunk. He made 17 of 23 shots--six three-pointers--with six assists and six steals.
Watkins scored in double figures in 19 of 23 games, and he has a knack for pulling down offensive rebounds despite his modest height. He had seven in a game against Gar-Field.
Besides being stronger, Watkins believes he is a smarter player than he was a year ago. His mother, Gloria, coaches Woodbridge's freshman girls team, so he picks up pointers from her as well as from his own coaches.
"Your parents are always your coach," Watkins said with a laugh. "They'll always criticize you because you'd rather hear it from them than from somebody else. If she tells me I did something wrong, I can take that. Whatever she tells me, I try my best to work on the next day in practice."