Kylee Watson wasn’t pacing the halls waiting for that moment. But the 6-foot-3 senior forward at Mainland was nervous enough about the prospect of making the McDonald’s All-American team that she couldn’t stop thinking about it last month.

“I was texting a few of the girls who were also in consideration in a group chat the night before,” Watson recalled. “We weren’t able to focus on school because we’re nervous. And I usually keep to myself when I’m nervous, so I was really quiet until we went into the coaches room to watch the broadcast on ESPN.”

That nervousness turned to excitement when Watson’s name was revealed on the roster for the game that will take place at Houston’s Toyota Center on April 1.

“That’s always been one of my goals and every basketball player’s goal,” said Watson, who has committed to Oregon. “Just to be named to the McDonald’s All-American [team] and to be put in the caliber of the people that have come before me is a really great honor.”

Watson has been the driving force for the Mustangs, who won 12 of their first 17 games and nine of 10 in the Cape Atlantic League. She has been forced to play more of a ball handling role this season due to the foot injury to sophomore point guard Camryn Dirkes, who is out for the remainder of the season.

“The offense runs through her,” Mainland head coach Scott Betson said of Watson. “She’s our pressure ball handler. She has been our best defender. It’s just been a huge leap this year in what she’s had to develop and handle.”

Watson (center) watches a free throw. She averages 18 points per game.
Watson (center) watches a free throw. She averages 18 points per game.

Watson is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks per game while shooting 58% from the floor this season. She scored 11 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked two shots as the Mustangs won their first NJSIAA Group 3 state championship last season with a 42-35 win over Chatham.

“Camryn played such a huge role, so that hurt us a lot,” Wilson said of the injury to the point guard. “But we knew that we could still be a really good team. So it allowed me to work on my leadership skills, improve my versatility, handling the ball more and to work on my outside shooting. It will help me become a more well-rounded player.”

As the regular season comes to a close and with her college decision in the rear view mirror, Watson can enjoy her final games at Mainland and prepare for what could be a potential extended run for the Mustangs in the NJSIAA playoffs.

“This year has been amazing because I’ve been blessed with so many amazing opportunities,” Watson said. “Being able to commit to a great college, getting named to the McDonald’s game, playing my last year of AAU basketball and now playing my final season of high school basketball, it’s just been incredible. And hopefully, we’re still going to be able to do some big things down the line.”