Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: Jewel Watkins, girls basketball coach Quentin Taylor build strong bond

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Whitehall's Jewel Watkins, a senior who will play for Coppin State, was averaging a team-high 20.0 points through 13 games. She also was leading the Rams in field-goal percentage, rebounding and steals.

When Quentin Taylor took over the Whitehall-Yearling girls basketball program before last season, he knew he had inherited a gem of a player in Jewel Watkins.

Since then, the senior’s contributions have only grown in value – to the Rams and their coach – and she will leave the program as one of its greatest players.

Through 13 games this season, Watkins was averaging a team-high 20.0 points while also leading the Rams in field-goal percentage (42), rebounding (6.0) and steals (4.0). She and Taylor also have developed a connection they expect to last long after she has graduated.

“Jewel is right under my wing,” Taylor said. “If anybody would be loyal and stick with me, it would be Jewel Watkins. This is her life, me and her. She’s going to be coming back from college getting workouts from me.” 

Watkins, a 5-foot-10 wing player, scored a career-high 40 points in an 87-28 win at Wellington on Jan. 26. Her previous high was 29 in a 52-50 loss to visiting Bexley on Jan. 5. 

Watkins cherishes the bond she has developed with Taylor. 

“He’s helped me so much, just wanting more for me than sometimes I want for myself,” she said. “He’s always pushing me harder every day in practice, pushing me to be a better person, not just on the court, but off the court also. He’s helped me keep my eyes open to things in this world. He’s a really good person.” 

Behind 22 points from Watkins, the Rams beat Buckeye Valley 45-31 on Jan. 27 to finish 5-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division. Whitehall, which was scheduled to open the league tournament Jan. 30, then had to pause its season after a player from Buckeye Valley tested positive for COVID-19, according to Taylor. The Rams, who are 7-7 overall, can resume activities Feb. 8.

“The coaching and the sisterhood bond that we have (on the team), not just on the court but also off the court, is special,” Watkins said. “It’s really fun playing together. It’s not an individual game, it’s not a one-person game. We all have fun. … We definitely have potential. We have people who really want to work hard and people who play hard. We can definitely go far (in the Division II district tournament).” 

Whitehall lost 54-39 on Jan. 22 to Worthington Christian, which was ranked 13th in the Division III state poll released Jan. 26. 

Katherine Weakley led the Warriors with 22 points. Taylor believes Watkins and Weakley are the two best players in the league. 

“I can’t take anything away from Weakley. She’s probably the best shooter in the league. But Jewel is definitely the best all-around player in our league,” Taylor said. 

Watkins helped the Rams reach a district final last season, losing 60-47 to Lakewood to finish 20-6 overall. Whitehall also won the MSL-Ohio title at 13-1 as Watkins averaged 13 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district. 

Watkins has taken on more of a prominent role this season after the Rams lost seven players to graduation as well as junior forward Alexia Mobley, who returned to Reynoldsburg after playing with the Raiders as a freshman. 

“Jewel has taken on the challenge,” Taylor said. “We graduated seven seniors and she’s stepped up to the challenge. It took a little while. It was slow. It was a different role for her, but now she thrives. She’s being the big sister to the younger girls.” 

Watkins’ success at the prep level will help her fulfill a longtime dream, as she will play collegiately at Division I Coppin State. 

The Eagles are coached by Laura Harper, who played two seasons for the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs and also played professionally in Europe. 

“It was a tough choice, but also an easy choice,” Watkins said. “That college really believed in me, took a chance on me, so that’s what I really appreciate the most. It saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.” 

Watkins’ stellar prep career also saw her dealing with the loss of her father, Joe Watkins Sr., who died in November 2019 after suffering a heart attack at his home. He was 66. 

“He’s definitely happy for me,” Watkins said of her father. 

Whitehall bowler earns 

leagues top award 

Junior A.J. Scott led the boys bowling team during the MSL-Ohio tournament Jan. 23 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, earning the league’s Bowler of the Year honor with a 665 three-game series. 

Jacob Leach (632) and Nathan McGrath (567) joined Scott as first-team all-league, and Elias Rozzelle (494) was honorable mention. 

The Rams finished first (3,455) in the five-team pool play before losing 2-1 to Grandview in the best-of-three Baker series final. 

“We had a good day but ran out of gas,” coach Tavi Netotian said. 

Chelsee Cress (494) earned first-team all-league honors for the girls. Michaela Skinner (454) made the second team and Isabel Collinsworth (371) and Lilli Jones (327) were honorable mention. 

Whitehall finished third (2,249) in the four-team pool play behind first-place Worthington Christian (2,829). 

Kei’Von Wiggins and the Rams were 9-7 overall and 3-0 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Worthington Christian on Jan. 29.

Boys basketball team 

looks to rebound 

The boys basketball team looked to end a two-game losing streak when it played Worthington Christian on Jan. 29. 

The Rams entered the game 9-7 overall and 3-0 in the MSL-Ohio. 

Royal Sibley scored 16 points and Kei’Von Wiggins added 12 in a 65-52 loss at Grove City on Jan. 26. 

The Rams also lost 61-59 to visiting Hartley on Jan. 23. Wiggins scored 17 points, Teddy Brown had 15 and Sibley and Da’Leon Jackson each added 10.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank