POTTSBORO — Hunter Watson waited the better part of two years to sign a national letter of intent to play baseball at Texas A&M.
The day finally arrived Wednesday as he and three other Pottsboro seniors announced their college choices.
Watson, an infielder-pitcher for the Cardinals, originally committed to the Aggies as a sophomore. Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period, was his first chance to make it official.
“It’s a big blessing and an honor to be able to do this, to get it over with before the season starts,” said Watson, who also quarterbacks Pottsboro’s playoff-bound football team. “I don’t have to worry about it in the spring when baseball season rolls around. It’s an honor and I’m blessed for the opportunity.”
Watson said that committing so early has allowed him to build a strong relationship with the A&M coaching staff.
“I love the coaches down there,” he said. “That’s part of the reason I fell in love with them, because of them and the relationship we share. We’ve had a good relationship going ever since I committed, calling and going down there on unofficial visits. It’s been awesome.”
Watson is also expected to be a top prospect in next June’s first-year player draft. Once he enrolls in a four-year college, he will not be draft eligible until after his junior season.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on going to A&M and trying not to put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “Whatever happens, we’ll see what happens. But I’m focused on going to A&M right now.”
Also signing Wednesday were Lady Cardinal athletes Pyper James (Harding softball), Alex Massie (Alabama State softball) and Haiden Williams (Southeastern Oklahoma State basketball).
Williams, a 5-foot-9 guard-forward, said SOSU was an easy choice not just because of its proximity.
“I’ve wanted to go there since my freshman year,” she said. “I’ve watched them play and their coach (Darin Grover) and they all just mesh together. They just work really well together and I like watching that. It makes me feel like I’m playing with my own team here at Pottsboro.”
Another factor for Williams was the number of area players already at SOSU. This season’s roster includes Sa’Liesha Hunter of Sherman, Ariannah Kemp and Chandler Kemp of Gainesville, Katie Webb of Melissa and Katie Branam of Bells.
“Knowing that I’ve actually played against a few of those girls there is pretty nice,” Williams said. “I know who they are and already have friends there on the team. That makes it easier.”
James, a pitcher, was eager to continue her career at the college level.
“It means a lot,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard and I’ve been fortunate enough to be on really good teams that put me out there. Getting to know (Harding coach Phil) Berry and finding that school was a really good opportunity.”
Like SOSU, Harding is a member of the NCAA Division II Great American Conference.
“Their level of competition is actually very good,” James said. “They won their conference last year, so they’re one of the good DII schools out there. Coach Berry shows a lot of commitment. That’s also one of the reasons I chose there.”
Massie, a catcher, chose Alabama State, which competes in the NCAA Division I Southwestern Athletic Conference, over several higher-profile programs.
“I was looking at Arkansas and Missouri and some other big schools,” she said, “but I think coming from a small school it’s a better fit.
“It was the family atmosphere, mainly. My coach (Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson) is an amazing person. I absolutely loved it there. My teammates are really family oriented, so that helped a lot in the decision. The support from my family saying ‘you’re going to be OK,’ that helped a lot.”
At Alabama State, Massie will rejoin former Pottsboro teammate Hatty Shope.