says. But she was shocked that he had turned

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says. But she was shocked that he had turned
smile in the room,” says Kerr. “He had that
all the way back in high school. It made him
impossible to scout for. He was so mature on
the floor, you could never rattle him.”
Asked about Kerr’s observation, Terry
smiles. “That comes from being one of 10
[children], you know. My mother was a single
parent. I was the second oldest. So I had a
lot of personal responsibility to make sure
the others had food, to make sure they got to
school every day. And for me, basketball was a
relief, because I was the leader of my team. I
was never, growing up, the best player, or the
one that they said, ‘He’s going to make it one
day.’ I had to work. And that work came from
my mother.”
Even then, he craved the pressure of a big
shot in an important game. “That’s another
thing coming from my mother. You know,
month to month we didn’t know if we were
going to have food on the table, if the lights
were going to be on or not. I can recall my
sixth-grade school year—we moved eight
times in one school year within the city limits.
Making a shot at the end of the game in front
of 30,000 people is nothing compared to moving your kids eight times while trying to make
sure food is on the table. That is real-life pressure.”
A
“It was my mother’s
idea to change my
commitment and go
to the University of
Arizona, and I thank
her to this day.”
learning that he’d changed his mind. Did he
remember what he said to Terry?
“Man, I thought we had this.”
Slick admits that he too was disappointed. “I
was upset with him for a minute. I wanted him
to be a Husky so bad I could taste it,” he says.
“I still have a picture over my fireplace, him
and Donald and me at the press conference.”
Donald then had to decide what to do. “So
now, do I back out? No, I felt Washington was
best for me,” he remembers thinking. “I talked
to Jason after he made his commitment to Arizona. I said there were no hard feelings about
it, and I wished him the best.”
Donald excelled at Washington, which
turned around its fortunes after his arrival
and went to the NCAA tournament in his
junior and senior years. (Today Donald runs
basketball camps with Slick, and recently left
his position as coach at West Seattle High
School.) He’s asked if he remembers whether,
when the Arizona Wildcats came to play in
Seattle against his team, Terry was booed for
his betrayal.
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S E AT T L E W E E K LY • D E C E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 1 2 − J A N U A RY 1 , 2 0 1 3
s her son played on AAU teams and in
high school, Andrea Cheatham started
to wonder if basketball really could
take Terry someplace. “By the time
he had won his first championship as a junior,
he and I both thought this could be a way he
could go to college,” she recalls. “Without
financial aid, that wasn’t going to happen.”
After winning the first of two state highschool championships with Franklin in 1994,
Terry began to be inundated with calls from
college coaches. “I knew he’d be able to get a
good scholarship and a degree, but we never
once thought it would lead to the NBA. We
were just thinking about getting to college,”
Cheatham says.
Then her son caught her by surprise. Going
into their senior year, Donald Watts and Terry
had become the two top basketball prospects
in the state, and interest in their choice of colleges was high. It was Terry who first decided
that he would stay local and help prop up a
struggling Washington Huskies basketball
team.
“When he made that commitment, it was
pretty simple for me,” Donald says. “We had
played together and done some really great
things in the AAU in the summertime. I felt
that one day we could be the best backcourt in
the NCAA.”
Slick arranged a press conference in September 1994 to announce that his son Donald
and his former student, Terry, were committing to the Huskies. The two shy, young
basketball players visibly cringed as the elder
Watts worked the press with his characteristic
outspoken style. One reporter noted that Donald could be heard apologizing to Terry for the
commotion.
But just a few days later, everything
changed.
Cheatham says she was in the hospital,
experiencing premature labor during another
pregnancy, when she saw Slick Watts on television announce that the two young men had
committed to the University of Washington.
She was stunned: She had no idea her son had
made up his mind.
“He said, ‘Mom, it’s going to work out,’ ” she
says. But she was shocked that he had turned
down the opportunity to play at the University
of Arizona for Lute Olson.
Olson was pretty surprised, too. “Once he
had made that commitment to U-Dub, I did as
I do with any kid that does that—I sent a letter
thanking him for considering us, and wished
him the best of luck at Washington and we
looked forward to the competition,” Olson
says. “Then his mom called me and asked, ‘Did
you ever offer Jason a scholarship?’ Of course
we did.”
Now that it was clear there was a scholarship waiting for Terry in Tucson, Cheatham
talked her son into making a visit.
“She was eight months pregnant! He came
down here, he loved it here and the guys he
was going to be playing with,” Olson says. “His
mom, from the get-go, we hit it off.”
Actually, she was so pregnant that she’d
already been hospitalized for premature labor,
Cheatham points out. But she went anyway.
“Jason realized when he got there that it was
a lot better,” she says. They flew back, and
within days of their return she gave birth. “We
really took a risk,” she laughs.
“It was my mother’s idea to change my commitment and go to the University of Arizona,
and I thank her to this day,” Terry says. But
in the past, he has expressed some second
thoughts. “It’s not that I regret it, but you
always think about what-if. The state of [the
Huskies] program at that time, you know, I
probably would have been a difference-maker.
But I don’t know if I would have made the
NBA, because when I went to Arizona there
was Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves. These guys would
come back in the summer. They’d be competing against us, and that’s what gave us our
confidence.”
Donald Watts remembers waiting to hear
from Jason after his trip to Tucson, and then
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