Former NBA player Donald Watts stood in the Woodinville gym, talking to about 150 youngsters. Suddenly he motioned to a banner high on the far wall bearing a famous Falcon name.
"At one time I played for Lake Washington," he said. "I was a Kang. Came into this place and got a couple wins. Played against Marques Tuiasosopo."
The crowd chuckled, and Watts continued his speech. Donald was there with his famous father, the former Sonic Slick Watts. The two men, comprising the company Watts Basketball, have worked with Woodinville coach Mark Folsom in recent months to help local kids improve their games and build up the Woodinville Select feeder program.
"Our message is to believe in yourself, invest in your teammates and invest in yourself," Donald said. "To really get the most joy out of basketball, you don’t have to give your life over to it. But when you’re doing it, put all your heart into it."
Donald went on to describe how he struggled at basketball in the sixth grade. But that through hard work and consistent effort, he eventually became the only freshman in the state of Washington to be starting on his high school team.
After speaking for 25 minutes, he gave way to his father, Slick Watts. Dressed in a dark suit and still in great shape, the 62-year-old former Sonic talked about his desire to put Woodinville on the basketball map.
"It’s all about confidence," he said. "It’s about trying to increase the confidence level. The kids in the city don’t think us Eastsiders have it goin’ on. So we are trying to bridge that gap and give kids here the confidence to know that we have some John Stocktons and Nate Robinsons out here.
"Donald was Eastside," Slick said. "When Donald was growing up, people said to us, ‘Slick you need to bring Donald to Garfield or Rainier Beach.’ We said no, we’re going to develop right out here. And we did. And a few years later, we had U-Dub and every college coach in the country coming out to recruit him. So (our system) can work out here."
"A lot of kids in the Woodinville basketball community are going through the motions and accepting whatever their fate," Donald added. "They’re like ‘Oh we got beat ... Oh we’re no good.’ I want people to live with a growth mindset. That’s what our business is about. Wherever you’re at right now you can get better and if you try hard to be better, you will love that process."
After the talk concluded, kids and parents migrated from the stands onto the court and asked for autographs and took pictures. Many were smiling.