MANHATTAN — James Watson has played his final basketball game in a Kansas State uniform, and possibly ever.
The Washington State and Cowley College transfer was told by athletic department officials on Friday that he won’t be retained by new coach Bruce Weber.
According to Watson’s mother, Annette, the decision was based on health concerns. She said Watson has a heart defect that causes him to faint. He began suffering from the problem at Washington State and experienced a scary moment last season when he fainted in his Manhattan apartment and missed a practice.
Because of that health concern, and other injuries, Watson played sparingly during his first season with the Wildcats. The 6-foot-8 junior forward saw time in one game and was held scoreless. But he had earned positive reviews from Weber during offseason workouts and was hoping to contribute as a senior. That, however, is no longer a possibility.
“Coach Weber had made the decision that James won’t be part of the team anymore,” Annette said by phone. “He thought he had too big of a health risk. James is broken-hearted. He called me the other day and said, ‘I can’t see my life without basketball.’”
Messages left on Watson’s cell phone have not been returned.
Watson’s mother said she was disappointed that a member of K-State’s athletic department informed him of the decision instead of Weber, who was out of town attending his daughter’s wedding. But she also said that if this helps him stay healthy and graduate in December, which he is 18 credits away from doing, then it could become a blessing.
She said he plans on staying at K-State as a normal student, and that the Wildcats will try to apply for a medical hardship that will allow him to remain on scholarship outside of athletics.
It was clear last week one player on K-State’s roster wouldn’t be back next year when Michael Orris, a Chicago-area point guard, signed with K-State last week. The Wildcats only lost one scholarship senior last season. Orris is Weber’s second signee.
“Coach Weber looked at the situation and decided why risk it,” Annette said. “He decided to bring in a freshman who is healthy. We’re disappointed. James didn’t want this. James would go out there and risk his life every day. He loves basketball.”
“But Kansas State gave him a free education. You can’t beat that. We gave James the weekend to think about it and cry about it and he wants to stay there and get his degree. It has been an identity crisis for him without basketball, but we will figure it out.”