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Gonzaga Basketball

‘Just watching greatness’: Gonzaga’s Anton Watson goes out a winner on Senior Night

There was no shortage of tributes for Gonzaga’s lone senior, Anton Watson, on Senior Night.

One of the coolest happened long before 6,000 filled the McCarthey Athletic Center to witness Gonzaga’s 94-81 victory over Santa Clara on Saturday. More than an hour before tipoff, Watson had one basket all to himself in warm-ups, putting up shots and free throws while teammates watched from seats along the sideline.

“Just watching greatness,” junior forward Graham Ike said.

Watson watched a highlight video of his five years at GU from the top of section 106, then received a huge ovation as he walked down an aisle in the Kennel Club to meet his family near midcourt during a short pregame ceremony.

Watson battled foul trouble in the first half but came back to finish with 13 points and five rebounds in the Zags’ victory.

“Man, I’m really just glad we got that dub (win), I’m not going to lie,” Watson told the crowd shortly after the final buzzer. “We needed that one. Since I’ve been here it’s been all love. Being a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect.

“It’s pretty tough at times, but the fans, my family, my coaches, teammates, they all showed love and they have faith in me. That faith motivated me to be the player I am.”

Watson has had a pair of 32-point games this season, and he’s averaging a career-best 14.8 points, second on the team behind Ike.

Watson leads the Zags in rebounding (7.4), steals (44) and 3-point percentage (45).

His name is all over Gonzaga’s career records. He’s the only player in program history with at least 1,000 career points, 700 rebounds and 200 steals. He’s 127-17 in his career, second in wins behind Przemek Karnowski’s 137 on GU’s all-time list.

Watson has grown “tremendously, especially this past year,” coach Mark Few said. “Without his sidekick Drew (Timme), he’s had to really own a lot of these big possessions down the stretch of these games and he’s done it masterfully. He got a couple of tough fouls (in the first half), but we got him back in there and he was a big factor in the second half. He impacts games in so many ways.”

Nearly an hour after the game ended, Watson was signing autographs for a large group of fans courtside. The former Gonzaga Prep standout has been a fan favorite because of his local connections, his high basketball IQ and his versatility to impact games at both ends of the court.

“It comes up a lot, everyone says I’m a true Zag,” said Watson, when asked how he wants to be remembered after his Gonzaga career ends. “I feel like that’s the best compliment anyone can give me, just to embody what it means to be a Zag.”