Basketball standout Maddy Watters’ ‘unimaginable’ journey at CMU

NCAA Hoops

Maddy Watters, courtesy CMU Athletics

MT. PLEASANT, Mich. (WOOD) — Winning games, championships and becoming a starter for the Central Michigan women’s basketball team was all attainable to Maddy Watters when she committed to be a Chippewa.

However, when the former Rockford Ram was still in high school in West Michigan, she couldn’t imagine what turned into being a part of a program’s complete culture change in Mt. Pleasant.

Three consecutive NCAA Tournament’s (minus the 2019-20 due to COVID-19), three regular season Mid-American Conference titles and two MAC Tournament championships. The 2017-18 NCAA Tournament team made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. 

All-in-all, something that would be hard for any freshman to imagine. 

“Being a freshman, you don’t really know what you don’t know,” Watters said. “When we were making that run into the Sweet 16, it was like a pinch me moment where you’re asking yourself, am I really here? Is this really happening? With our coaches and players it was possible, but I never imagined it.”

One other accomplishment that only added to the dream Watters has lived over the past four years: making a 3-point competition.

On April 1, Watters competed with other top college basketball players in the State Farm 3-point Championship. She made it to the second round and placed fourth. Watters made 15 shots in the second round.

It was a fun experience to be a part of. 

“To experience it with my family and the other players was really special to me,” Watters said. “There were some nerves but I was just happy to be representing CMU while cheering on the other players shooting and dunking.”

One of Watters teammates was a part of the competition in 2018-19. Former CMU star guard Presley Hudson not only participated in but also won the competition that season, making 77 of 100 triples.

Watters felt like talking with Hudson in the past helped her prepare for this event.

“I had never done a 3-point competition before, the closest thing was a free throw competition at the Breslin back in high school,” Watters said. “Presley made me feel used to it already, but it’s also just March Madness so it’s a part of the event.”

Watters herself left quite a few marks on the program record books. She made a total of 182 3-pointers, which ranks eighth in school history. She scored a total of 741 points in four seasons, while being a starter for the past three campaigns. 

During the 2020-21 season, Watters was second in the country with a 3-point shooting percentage of .439. 

With these accolades, Watters also experienced a coaching change during her tenure. Former CMU legend Sue Guevara — who may go down as the best CMU women’s coach in history — retired following the 2018-19 season. The keys were then handed to Heather Oesterle, who is 41-16 in just two seasons with a MAC regular season and tournament title.

There was already a familiarity with Oesterle to Watters because she recruited her on Guevara’s staff. 

“It had its challenges because they are different but also the same in a lot of ways because coach (Guevara) was and is Heather’s mentor,” Watters said. “A lot of the qualities I was looking for were still there because she was still an integral part of why I picked Central Michigan.”

Watters plans on moving on from CMU rather than using the extra year granted to athletes due to the coronavirus. She is planning to move into a career that doesn’t involve basketball, although didn’t put it out of reach that there could be some kind of coaching down the line. 

As for her legacy as a Chippewa, she feels like she gave everything she had to help the team win and to be a great teammate. She also believes that the program is still in a good position to keep winning.

“We were able to make the NCAA Tournament every year I was there and I think they can keep it going with how hard working the team is,” Watters said. “There are people who didn’t get the minutes they wanted this year but are capable of those minutes. I don’t think there is any slowing down. Overall, my experience in Mt. Pleasant was second to none. The people there are amazing to go along with my coaches and teammates. It’s just crazy it’s already been four years.”

Though time seemed to move so fast for Watters, the accomplishments of the teams she was a part of are endless.

So as she released her last shot last night in a CMU uniform, one thing is for certain: the people she spoke of won’t forget her. And neither will the record books.

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