Key to the Cougars: Wathne shining in senior seasonAs a freshman, Kris Wathne’s 6-foot-1 frame was used to help stave off a rather big Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page lineup. The game marked the first start for the Griggs County Central standout, and Wathne recalls not having a lot of confidence in himself.
By: By Chris Aarhus, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
As a freshman, Kris Wathne’s 6-foot-1 frame was used to help stave off a rather big Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page lineup.
The game marked the first start for the Griggs County Central standout, and Wathne recalls not having a lot of confidence in himself.
“I think I was pretty timid,” he said. “Coach (Bill) Engel talked to me and said, ‘Just play the game.’ ... I started getting confidence, playing more aggressive from that game.”
It was blue collar then, and it’s blue collar now.
Wathne’s style has served him well in his four-year varsity career. The 6-foot-3 center entered Monday averaging 19.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in leading the Cougars to an 8-3 record.
He scored his 1,000th point earlier this season, a mark he had long been gunning for but was only mildly concerned about when he approached it.
“It was mostly the relief of just getting it out of the way,” Wathne said. “It was just kind of hovering over me. I was happy I got there.”
His promise was evident early on, especially toward the latter part of the 2009-2010 season, when he scored 14 points in a 60-56 overtime loss to Hillsboro.
“(It was) my freshman year right around districts. I started getting the ball and just started going to the basket,” Wathne said. “I started scoring a lot. In the second half, I came out and started getting double-teamed and stuff. From there I kind of thought, all right, I can do this.”
Wathne stepped into a leadership role as a junior, which started as a conversation with Billy Engel Jr., the coach’s son who was entering his senior year.
“We started talking about how we needed to step up and get guys going,” Wathne said. “Billy and I talked about needing someone to replace (the outgoing seniors).”
Leadership takes many forms. For Wathne, his role is simple.
“Getting everybody to stay positive, keeping everybody on track to work hard, be a grinder and battle through it,” he said. “All the preparation is what pays off in games.”
As the focal point of the Cougars’ offense, he’s fared well this season. His season high for points is 28, which he accomplished against May-Port-C-G and Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page. He’s had five 20-point games and likely would have had a sixth against Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal on Thursday if the game hadn’t been called in the third quarter because of issues with the facility. He finished with 17 points.
“If we had our way about it, we’d keep him 3 feet from the basket,” Engel said. “He’s got guys hanging on him all the time. It makes it tough. ... He can step out to 15-16 feet and square people up and make jump shots out there. It makes him a very tough matchup.”
But like all humble athletes, Wathne deflects credit to his teammates, who are especially important considering he plays on the low block.
“A lot of it is working together, when I get the ball and also giving it back to them,” Wathne said. “A lot of it is just trust and communication.”
The Cougars are firmly in the running for the No. 1 seed in District 3. They sit atop the standings with a 2-0 district record.
“I think we can compete for a district title,” Wathne said. “I think if we play our best basketball, we can compete for the region.”
Sun sports writer Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org