The trend of high school boys basketball players leaving CIAC schools for prep schools isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. But kids doing it in reverse? That’s a rare occasion.
Mustapha Heron did so in 2013, leaving Wilbraham & Monson and playing at Sacred Heart his last three seasons, leading the Hearts to three straight CIAC state championships.
Last August, Tremont Waters did it for his final season of eligibility. He departed South Kent and came to play at Notre Dame-West Haven, enrolling last August. It was an opportunity for Waters to play close to his native New Haven.
The move did pay off. The Register’s State Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season, Waters led Notre Dame to a 20-0 regular season. The Green Knights spent the latter part of the regular season ranked atop the Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 poll.
“I enjoyed it a lot. I got to see my parents. People don’t usually do it the way I did it,” Waters said. “They usually stay for two or three years and then go away. I did the opposite and it just happened to work out and was able to see my parents before I head off to college so it all worked out for me.”
Notre Dame had a pretty good team coming back for this season. Waters, a 5-foot-10 point guard, was able to fit into and run the Green Knights’ system.
“Tremont was unquestionably the best player on the floor night in and night out,” Notre Dame-West Haven coach Jason Shea said. “I’m very happy for him to be recognized as State Player of the Year.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Waters, also named the Gatorade State Player of the Year, led the greater New Haven area in scoring at 23.2 per game. He also averaged 6.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game. He made 69 3-pointers and finished with over 2,000 career points.
And Waters became quite the curiosity factor for people anxious to see him play. They flocked both home and away as Notre Dame built its undefeated season. Eight different times, both home and away, Notre Dame sold out games.
“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to end with a championship but overall, it was pretty good,” Waters said. “Everybody welcomed me back home and I was to become more a leader, not just a scorer but a great player on the court and a leader and in the community.
“It was very humbling because going home I didn’t know what to expect. Going back home, I was in awe of selling the gyms out and just knowing they were coming to see me.”
As Waters indicated, the postseason didn’t go as Notre Dame hoped. Notre Dame faced Hillhouse in the SCC tournament final in the most anticipated game of the season. It sold out the near 3,500 at the TD Bank Sports Center three hours before game time.
Hillhouse won the game, handing Notre Dame its first loss. Waters finished with 22 points, but didn’t score a field goal for the final 14 minutes of the game.
Then the top-seeded Green Knights were upset by Danbury in the second round of the Class LL tournament. Waters finished his season with just 10 points.
Waters came to Notre Dame armed with seven scholarship offers and chose Georgetown over Indiana. But the Hoyas endured their second straight losing season and, just a few days after his high school career ended, Waters asked to be released from his scholarship.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) February 25, 2017
“I saw tweets about Coach (John) Thompson (III) being fired and rumors about it,” Waters said. “The season didn’t go that well and more and more tweets and stories about him being fired. I wanted to go into a situation where I didn’t have to worry about my coach getting fired so I asked for my release.”
A few weeks later, Thompson was fired. Georgetown hired Patrick Ewing, its most decorated player ever, to try and re-establish the Big East program.
One of his top priorities was to come visit Waters in New Haven, which he did on April 7, the day after Waters received his release from Georgetown.
“It was really good,” Waters said. “I was shocked when I saw him, I didn’t think he was that tall but he is saying the same thing that Coach John Thompson was saying.”
Adam Finkelstein, a recruiting analyst for ESPN, noted there is a need for point guards among some top-level Division I programs. Finkelstein said Waters ranks right behind Trey Duval, who is expected to make a decision some time this month.
“You look at the point guard market, there’s hardly anyone left on the board,” Finkelstein said. “There are teams that desperately need a point guard, so Tremont has more options and leverage than he did the first time (before committing to Georgetown).”
Waters said that Georgetown is still a possibility. He also said Kansas and UConn, both of which offered scholarships previously, along with Syracuse and Creighton, are all in play.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) December 24, 2016
“As soon as possible,” Waters said when asked about making a decision. “I am not going to put a time frame on it, just as soon as possible. It is stressful once again. At this moment. I haven’t really heard from the coaches directly. My dad has been dealing with it, I am trying to keep working out, check in with him daily and just see what is going on.”
Waters originally committed to, then blew off playing in the JCC Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic in Bridgeport last weekend, but did stay committed to play in the Jordan Brand Classic. In 16 minutes of action, Waters finished with eight points, three steals and two assists in the game played Friday played at the Barclays Center.
Finkelstein is “surprised there aren’t more suitors for him at this point and time given the amount of high-level schools who need a point guard.” If there is a weakness in Waters’ game, it would be on defense where his size could prove to be a detriment at the next level.
“That has to be more of a point of emphasis,” Finkelstein said. “His defensive problems are two-fold. He has to make it more of a priority like the offensive end has always been a priority for him. And he’s got some physical limitations that will be a factor on that end when he plays bigger guards or gets stuck in mismatches.”
Staff writer Jim Fuller contributed to this story.