NEW HAVEN >> How crazy can things get for a top-notch basketball prospect? Consider this: a couple of years ago, after a strong performance at the Adidas national tournament in Las Vegas, Tremont Waters was told by an observer that he would be a one-and-done player in college.
Waters was 13 years old at the time.
“It lets you know what people are thinking,” Ed Waters, Tremont’s father, was saying on Sunday. “They’re not wrong for their opinion. I will say this, in all fairness, that so many guys have taught these guys, ‘This is what we all think.’ I’m just here to keep a balance, that that’s not what we’re thinking.”
Indeed, Ed Waters and his wife, Vanessa – they call themselves Team Waters – are doing all they can to keep their son grounded and humble as his prep basketball career gets underway up at South Kent School. They’re doing a good job so far: Tremont has already been named the head of the school’s freshmen Third Form, an interdisciplinary and challenge-based learning program. Ed proudly shows off Tremont’s grades for the first marking period, all A’s and a B-plus, earning him high honors.
And things are off to a flying start on the basketball court, too. Tremont, a New Haven native, was back in his hometown this weekend as South Kent played at Albertus Magnus College in the National Prep Showcase, which features some of the top prep programs and recruits in the nation. Waters, a 5-foot-10 point guard, was terrific, pouring in a team-high 26 points on 8-for-14 shooting (including five 3-pointers) in South Kent’s 94-91 win over Elev 8 on Friday evening.
On Sunday against Brewster Academy, Waters popped off the bench about five minutes into the game and immediately knocked down a tough 3-pointer almost as soon as he touched the ball. He finished with 17 points in another strong effort.
“It was a pleasure to come back and play for my hometown,” the soft-spoken freshman said afterwards. “I just played my game, stayed humble.”
No doubt, Waters impressed the dozens of college coaches – including UConn assistants Glen Miller and Ricky Moore – who were in the house.
“He does a lot of things well,” said South Kent coach Kelvin Jefferson. “He’s got a really high IQ, he understands the game. He’s one of those guys that makes it look easy. There’s not too many guys who can do that, but he can make shots, really pass the ball, sees a couple plays ahead, and he really, really handles the ball. He’s a talented kid.”
That Waters, at 15, would be one of the best players on the floor against kids who’ll be playing college ball this time next year is no shock. At 12, he was already playing against – and often dominating – 16-year-olds with the AAU New England Playaz. He’s already currently ranked No. 15 in the nation among the Class of 2017 by one scouting service, and things are only bound to get more intense as his career progresses.
But Team Waters is ready to face those challenges, protect him and shield him as much as possible from distractions, while at the same time allowing him to learn and grow.
“We all know, what comes with attention is responsibility,” said Ed Waters, who played at Hamden High in the mid-1980s. “So now, we try to keep him humble and focused on the things that got Team Waters here, and what we’ve got to do to stay here. It’s a work ethic, being humble, and remembering why we got involved with this.”
As for the hype that will inevitably follow his son over the next few years, Ed doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
“I want to enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey, not the destination,” he said. “Keeping my grass cut, per se, will allow us to see what’s coming. We’re not looking to rush into anything. We want to enjoy being here.”
Still, Team Waters does keep one eye on the future. One way Ed keeps Tremont grounded is to watch “Broke,” an ESPN “30-for-30” presentation detailing the many former pro athletes who wound up with huge financial problems, at least once a month.
“I need my son to get a degree,” Ed Waters said. “I would love for him to graduate and be able to learn how to make money in the real world, which college teaches you, and he can fall back on his degree. If you give him $10 million, how does he keep $10 million?”
He added: “I always taught him how to be a great young man. What I love about sports, basketball teaches him leadership, how to lead by example, and how to be responsible for other people. I just want him to one day get a degree from college and be able to feed himself, his loved ones, his kids later on in life. We love basketball, but it’s all about what type of young man he’s going to be, what type of husband, what type of father, a leader in his own community.”
One-and-done? Far too early for that kind of talk. Not that Tremont Waters might not have that type of talent four years down the road.
“As long as we stay humble and working hard,” said his dad, “it’ll all take care of itself.”