MICHIGAN CITY — Hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20-20.
Given the opportunity to turn back the clock, Westville graduate Brandon Watkins would've buckled down on his school work sooner than he did.
"If I did better at my academics, I'd still be chasing whatever I wanted to be at basketball," Watkins said Wednesday during Jarrod Jones' LTG Camp at the high school. "I had a hoop outside, a couple neighbors, I'd get home from school and I was like, let's go hoop. Out of season, I was out there till like 9, 10 at night, then I was doing my homework. I did OK, I had like a 2.7, but I was kind of behind. Junior, senior year, people are taking college classes, vocational, I never did that. That's my fault. I take full responsibility. College is a lot harder. Now I'm just trying to catch back up."
After two years at Goshen College, the 20-year old finds himself at the proverbial fork in the road. Watkins didn't make the grades to get into the nursing program at Goshen. Since he doesn't want to pursue a business degree, he's facing the likelihood of giving up basketball, at least at an organized level, to get his schooling squared away elsewhere.
"Basketball's always been my life, but it's also kind of holding me back," he said. "Freshman year, I wasn't paying attention like I should have. I woke up last year and did better, but it was too late. My grades weren't terrible, but they weren't what they needed to be. Goshen's a great school. I had a great time. I definitely had some great experiences, some good teammates, good friends. I still go to the gym every day, lift, work people out. Basketball will still always be in my life."
While his plans aren't set in stone, Watkins seems to be leaning toward IUPUI and looking into the radiology program there. He hasn't ruled out the possibility of walking on in basketball at the Division-I school in Indianapolis.
"It's like I tell kids, I know school sucks, but you've got to do it," he said. "I've got to deal with the consequences. If I woke up my sophomore year of high school, started training every day, I could've made something way better of myself. I didn't have the drive to become really good until my junior year."
Watkins appeared in 12 games, playing 34 minutes as a freshman at Goshen, the bulk of his playing time coming on what would be the equivalent of the JV level. He saw time in 25 games last season, actually starting four, getting almost 12 minutes of a run a night on the average. He scored at a modest 2.8 points per game clip, but did reach double figures in the Maple Leafs' final two games against Taylor and Spring Arbor.
"I got a lot better," he said. "I had a couple good games. We beat No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan, an NCAA D-II team (Central State). We played at Eastern Michigan. That was pretty cool."
With a few weeks yet to firmly decide on his next step, Watkins spent some free time this week at Jones' camp, something he's been a part of since its inception here in 2014, when he was going into his sophomore year at Westville. Following three years as a camper, he's come back and helped out the last three summers.
"It's cool to see guys from where they started to where they are now," said Jones, who couldn't persuade Watkins to speak to the campers Wednesday. "I appreciate the support in the city to allow me to come back. I'm happy to see a lot of the same campers so excited to be back, to see their development, their eagerness to learn and continue to work."
That group includes promising Michigan City freshman Jamie Hodges and Notre Dame seventh grader Eli Bennett.
"It gives me the chance to go up against people who are bigger and stronger than me," said Bennett, who has been attending the camp for several years. "It makes me stronger, so when I play against guys my own age, it makes it a lot easier."
The 6-foot-5 Watkins, who helped Westville to its first Porter County Conference round-robin and tournment titles in 2017, might see a little of himself in Bennett, a 6-1, 12-year old.
"I like helping out the kids," Watkins said. "There's a kid here from Westville. He knows me. I go to PNW, I told him to come up there, we can do some drills and stuff. If I teach somebody to do a move, do a jab (step), to be able to see them do it, I like that. (Jones), Will Walker, Antonio Hurt, all of them, they helped me out. I always looked up to them. I wanted to be like them, to go to college. It's definitely a lot different (now). I like it when kids look up to me. I can share my experiences. Definitely follow your dreams."