Camp a highlight for Watts

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Tuesday, Marshall Watts sat in the bleachers at the far end of Fort Dale Academy’s gymnasium and watched a group of basketball players fire shots at the rim.

Just more than a decade ago, Watts would have been out on the court instead of sitting in the bleachers, but these days he has traded his sneakers for a whistle.

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The former Fort Dale standout, who scored more than 1,000 points in his career and led the Eagles to a runner-up finish in the Alabama Independent School Association state tournament in 1999, is back in Greenville to serve as an instructor at the 17th annual Fort Dale Academy Basketball Camp, which began Monday and will end Thursday.

For Watts, who has been the head basketball coach at Class 2A Cottonwood High School for the past five years and now resides in Dothan, working the camp is one of the highlights of his summer.

“I really enjoy it,” Watts said. “I grew up going to camps, and this camp especially, and that’s a big reason I’m in coaching today. Camp should be fun and make you want to play basketball and stay involved in the game of basketball, and I think (Fort Dale head coach Reggie) Mantooth has done a good job of that over the years, and I’m glad I have the chance to come back to Greenville and be a part of this camp. It’s rewarding to help these young athletes develop as basketball players.”

Watts has served as an instructor at the camp for nearly a decade, and many of the campers he coached during his first years with the camp are now members of Fort Dale’s varsity team.

“I keep track of how they are doing,” Watts said.

“I try to make it to a at least a couple of games a year, but it’s tough with me coaching, but I make it when I can.”

Many of the campers Watts coaches find it hard to believe that he was at one time a standout on Mantooth’s squad.

It’s been 11 years since Watts played for the Eagles and many of the campers he’s now coaching weren’t even born the last time he wore a Fort Dale jersey.

“To them I’m just the old guy that helps with basketball camp,” Watts joked.

“Most of them of probably can’t even imagine me playing basketball.”

It doesn’t bother Watts too much.

“I’m used to it. At least here there are some people who know who I am and remember when I played. At Cottonwood no one ever saw me play, so most people think I’m just some bum off the street,” he said with a laugh.

At least at Fort Dale he’s the “basketball camp guy.”

“That’s better than being a bum,” Watts joked.

Watts, along with Fort Dale’s Mantooth and Davis Watts, have focused the camp on teaching fundamental skills, including ball handling, shooting, rebounding, passing and defense.

The camp has also featured competitive games and contests.

“Summer basketball camp should be a fun experience for all campers,” Mantooth said. “At the same time we want to make sure they learn the right way to play, along with learning good fundamentals.”

Campers ranged in age from 6-18 with campers 12 and younger attending a morning session and older campers attending an afternoon session.