Ibi Watson first received a scholarship offer from the Dayton Flyers on Nov. 6, 2014. Archie Miller coached the Flyers then, and his program had reached the Elite Eight eight months earlier.
That wasn’t enough for the Flyers to beat out Michigan, Indiana and others to land Watson, who committed to the Wolverines in July 2015, the summer before his senior year at Pickerington Central. However, Dayton’s program made an impression.
“I remember him thinking pretty highly of Dayton,” Pickerington Central coach Eric Krueger said.
That familiarity played a part in Watson, who announced he was transferring from Michigan on April 12, signing with Dayton on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard/forward also considered Ohio and Duquesne, but visited only Dayton. He was on campus Monday and made his decision on Tuesday.
Watson, who will have to sit out the 2018-19 season, has two seasons of eligibility remaining. He joins Dwayne Cohill, Jhery Matos and Frankie Policelli, who signed on Tuesday, in Dayton’s 2018 class. The Flyers now have 10 scholarship players on the roster, leaving three scholarships open.
“First and foremost, you’re adding a veteran to your roster,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “Ibi’s had two years at Michigan and obviously the success they’ve enjoyed — the two Sweet 16s and national championship game appearance — that experience for him, being able to be a part of that on a daily basis, I think he adds a level of experience to our roster, not only when he becomes eligible but during this time that he gets to be a redshirt and continue to work on his personal development. I think it’ll be a great addition to our team for some of our younger guys to have a veteran like that on your roster.”
Watson was a three-star recruit in the class of 2016. He ranked 208th in the class, according to 247Sports.com. He made the All-Ohio first team as a senior in 2016 and averaged 19.2 points in his two seasons at Pickerington.
Watson is the first transfer Dayton has landed from the Big Ten since Jordan Sibert left Ohio State, debuting with the Flyers in the 2013-14 season.
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At Michigan, Watson appeared in 45 games over the last two seasons, receiving limited minutes each season. He averaged 2.2 points and 0.8 rebounds in 5.2 minutes per game last season. He scored two points in one minute in the national championship game loss to Villanova.
“Obviously, things at Michigan he wanted to go a little bit different than they did,” Krueger said, “but you’ve got to take a step back and do what’s best for your future. I think Dayton is a great fit for him. I think he’ll have a really good two years at Dayton.”
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Krueger coached Watson for two years. Watson attended Athens High School for two years before moving to Pickerington with his mom, Molly Watson.
“He’s a really good kid,” Krueger said. “He works extremely hard. He’s very much a gym rat type of kid. He’s always in the gym working on his game. He puts a lot of time and energy into it. He’s really dedicated, a great player. Basketball-wise, he’s a great scorer. He can really shoot the basketball. He’s extremely athletic and bouncy. He has a high IQ. He understands the game. He brings a lot of length and athleticism to the table, and he’s got the ability to defend and rebound and do things on that end of the floor as well.”
Watson visited Pickerington on Tuesday. Krueger said he looks stronger after two years in college.
“I think he’s ready to do really well,” Krueger said, “and I think he would have done really well next year at Michigan. I think he just wanted the chance to be more of a lead guy. They graduated some older guys he was behind. I think he was looking for a better fit. He wanted to be a guy who can come in and have a huge impact. He gets another year to work on his game and get ready and get used to the system and being at Dayton.”