Center returns after violent attack

With one conversation, she was forced to revamp her life’s itinerary.

After last season, women’s basketball head coach Debra Clark told center Kim Watson in her yearly evaluation that her scholarship was not going to be renewed.

“I was just going to quit,” said Watson, who had already played three consecutive seasons for the Rattlerettes.

She made the trip back to her hometown of Clewiston dejected and distraught, without that new itinerary.

However, within three days her situation got even worse.

On April 28, a girl that didn’t like Watson tried to pick a fight with Watson’s sister.

While the girl and Watson’s sister were scuffling, Watson tried to separate them.

Within moments, the girl released fury on Watson with a knife in hand.

After it was over, Watson had a severed thumb and five stab wounds in her back, thigh and left shoulder.

She was rushed to the hospital.

“Before I got there (the hospital) I thought I was going to die,” Watson said.

“I couldn’t breathe and blood was gushing everywhere.

I was lucky to make it because if I would’ve been a couple minutes later then my lung would have collapsed and I would have died.”

One of her lungs eventually did collapse.

First basketball had been taken from her and now her health was being seized.

She remained in the hospital for seven days.

Watson said that while she was there she kept asking God if she was going to play basketball again since the doctors weren’t telling her.

By the time the hospital let her go home she didn’t know whether basketball was in her future. A month later she still didn’t know.

In mid-June, Watson went to see her doctor for an X-ray, which revealed that her damaged lung had expanded properly without any punctures.

The doctor finally told her that she could play soon, but was advised to wait two to three years

Watson only waited two to three months.

Watson returned to Tallahassee for summer school and started playing with her old teammates, who began buzzing in her ear to come back.

“Everybody told her that if you feel like you can play then come back, but if you know that you can’t then don’t push it,” said senior forward Deidra Bateman, the only other senior on the team.

“But basically it wasn’t even us urging her, it was Kim, she wasn’t going to let anything stop her.”

Driven by her sheer love of the game, Watson eventually went to Clark and asked for her spot back.

“I was pleased that she came back and asked for the opportunity,” said Clark, who obliged, but could not offer Watson a scholarship.

And now after that summer of distress, Watson, described by assistant coach Niki Washington as “a survivor,” is preparing to play her senior season as a walk-on.

“A lot of times if you lose your scholarship then people say, ‘well O.K., I’m just going to be a regular student (and not play basketball),'” Clark said.

“But the fact that she came back shows me her commitment and that she wants to be successful.”

Watson’s success this season may be limited because her lung is still not 100 percent better.

“I can tell (that my lung isn’t 100 percent better) because when I run it takes me longer (than the other players) to catch my breath and for my heart rate to slow down,” Watson said.

“Right now it’s getting there and hopefully by the time the season starts it will be back to normal.”

She says her goal this year is to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship, while becoming the MEAC Player of the Year and the biggest goal, being drafted into the WNBA.

“Nobody can stop Kim in the MEAC if she plays her game,” Bateman said. “Nobody.”

“I think if I didn’t play basketball, then I wouldn’t be happy, like at all,” Watson said.

Ibram Rogers can be reached at