USI’s four seniors, Part 2

Keith DeWitt, playing in his only year for USI after transferring from Division I Southern Mississippi, where he had played two years ago, has become one of the most dominant post players in Eagles history:  “It’s been a good experience. I thank God every day for this. A lot of people had just (written) me off and gave up on me and coach Watson gave me a chance. Yeah, at first it was bumpy. But since then it’s been a smooth ride. At first I couldn’t trust him (Watson). But he and the coaches sat down with me and we talked. We have an opportunity to do something special, to win a national championship. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of guys. Definitely, we are a threat to do that just off our heart and our athleticism and our great coaching and because we have a great big man. I feel we can do it. I believe in us. Coach has us believing in each other.”

USI coach Rodney Watson on DeWitt: “It wasn’t a no-brainer when he came here. When you bring someone into your program where it didn’t work out at his previous school, you ask yourself, will it work here? I won’t go into what happened at Southern Miss, but Keith came to us really with some trust issues — is it really going to be the way you said it was in recruiting? It took him the best part of the ball and going into that knee injury (in November) where he could really trust the coaching staff and me specifically and even his teammates. He’d be the first to admit he didn’t know this league was this good. A blessing in disguise may have been that meniscus injury, that cartilage injury (that necessitated surgery). I think he realized he might be one injury away from never playing again. I think once he came back from that knee injury, it proved (to him) that just because you got hurt we don’t put you on the shelf and go to the next guy. After the (Kentucky) Wesleyan game (on Jan. 21) and Aaron (Nelson) went down, his role changed drastically because he had to play so many more minutes.”

Kenyon Smith, two-year starting guard whose specialty has been defense: “It’s been fun. It’s the last go-round. This team is like your family. Coach Watson has been a real good coach for me. He’s taught me things I didn’t know. He’s given me more confidence in myself. (Regarding his defense) It was my way of separating myself from other people. It was always my thing. It’s about the toughness in me. It’s always been there.”

Watson on Smith: “He’s been the heart and soul of our program. It’s not often you get someone that people recommended and those people turned out be 100 percent correct. He gives everything he’s got, in the classroom and on the court. Here’s a guy who came here for the right reason, who really wants to get his degree. And he loves to play basketball, and he has championships in his blood. He knows how to play to win. He gives his teammates and the program and the school all he has.”

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