Getting cut sucks.
Regardless of the sport you play and the level that you play it at, being told that you are not good enough to play the sport you love is devastating and heart-breaking. Everyone of us has been through at some point. And I think we can all agree: it sucks.
But that is precisely what happened to Kansas State’s James Watson on Friday. New head coach Bruce Weber brought in Michael Orris, a point guard from Chicago that he had been recruiting while he was the head coach at Illinois, which put the Wildcats over the limit of 13 scholarships.
Someone had to go, and that someone was Watson.
“I was so shocked,” Watson told Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle and the KC Star. “I didn’t want to hear what they were telling me. I thought April Fool’s was back I was so shocked. I don’t know why the new coach kicked me off the team. I think it’s really messed up. I could have helped the team next year.”
“I was really looking forward to it. I was doing workouts, individuals, lifting weights. I was doing pretty good, too. He told me, ‘You’re doing really good and have more experience than some of the other players.’ And when Frank Martin left he told me, ‘You’re one of the most talented players on the team.’ Now I’m cut. I don’t get it.”
Here’s the tricky part: Watson should get it, because he knows that he is in a very unique situation.
Watson has a heart condition that causes him to faint. It happened once at Washington State, where he spent the first two years of his college career. (Prior to last season, he was at Cowley College, a JuCo in Kansas.) It happened again prior to this past season. He was picked up by an ambulance when he didn’t show up for practice and spent time in the hospital. That, combined with an elbow injury, played a major role in the fact that Watson mustered just three minutes of action in one game as a junior.
“I feel like he was just trying to open up a scholarship and wanted me off the team,” Watson said. “I feel 100-percent healthy. I only fainted once during my time here, and that was with the old coaching staff. It never happened when Bruce Weber was around.”
It’s an impossibly tough situation to be put in for both sides. Does Weber allow Watson to work out and continue to play on the team knowing full well that he could be risking his life? Would Watson ever consciously be able to make the decision to walk away from the game if it was in his best interest?
But would Weber have made this same decision if he didn’t need the scholarship for an incoming recruit? Would things have been different if Watson had averaged 10 points and eight boards last season?
James Watson got screwed. The way his career and his life — his was adopted when he was 14 and lost a sister at a young age — have unfolded is the furthest thing from fair.
But he will be on a medical scholarship and can finish up his degree at Kansas State. He’ll had an education, and he was able to experience basketball at the Pac-12 and Big 12 levels with a diagnosed heart condition.
Hopefully, one day, he’ll realize that he’s quite lucky as well.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.