BATAVIA, Ohio — Nate Watson approaches life with a purpose.
The 6-foot-3 Batavia High School senior shooting guard takes all of his classes as a College Credit Plus (CCP) student at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College. He likely will have up to 40 college credits by the time he graduates next spring.
Watson, 18, enjoys math and wants to enter cybersecurity as a career path. He is an avid Ohio State fan. He loves playing Fortnite. He is also a dedicated son, brother and student-athlete.
“As an athletic director, he is what every kid you wish was,” Batavia Athletic Director Ben Stewart said. “He goes above and beyond in the classroom. He is a great leader on the floor and he is somebody who is completely dedicated to his team and everything he is working on.”
Watson’s basketball teammates gravitate toward him because of his leadership. He approaches the day with a glass half-full mentality.
He’s also a relentless fighter.
Watson was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on Nov. 12 – just two weeks prior to the season opener. Despite having two chemotherapy treatments, Watson continued to practice and play for the Bulldogs through six games. He received his third chemo treatment Thursday and was unable to attend home game against Felicity-Franklin.
“He’s very strong-willed,” said his mother, Donna. “I think that from the beginning it’s been his decision that he’s going to make the most of his life and not let the cancer take anything from him.”
Watson, a captain, has never given a second thought about continuing with the basketball team. His doctors are amazed.
“I am going to be here with the team no matter what,” Watson said last week. “Whether I am playing or whether I am not even dressed in uniform and sitting on the bench talking to them.”
As the team’s top returning scorer from a year ago, Watson was the focal point for the Bulldogs’ opponents the second half of last season. He could be counted on to make a clutch shot, grab a rebound or make a defensive play at the right time.
This season, Watson understands he isn’t able to perform like he wants to on the court. Yet he is determined to persevere.
He had eight points and a block in the Dec. 15 game against visiting Madeira. He doesn’t seek special treatment from his coaches or teammates because of his health.
“It’s his love of the game,” said Batavia senior center Kaleb Moell. “He knows that it’s his senior year. He makes everything count. He may not always shoot the ball. He may pass it. But everything is 100 percent. And when he does shoot it or get a shot, he makes it count. He’s in here after practice putting up extra shots as well.”
Between his studies and basketball, Watson stays plenty busy – and upbeat.
“I’ve never heard him once say, ‘Why me?’” Batavia coach Aaron Brose said. “All I have seen him do is, ‘All right, this is what it is and I am just going to beat it and I am going to keep playing because that is what is important to me. Everybody else has rallied around that.”
Watson’s game minutes have been limited; he usually plays for two to three minutes at a time. He knows his body will be able to only take so much as the chemo continues, but his resolve won’t be deterred.
“Most Wednesday nights after my treatment I am throwing up,” Watson said. “It helps being able to look forward to basketball and knowing that the next day I am going to be able to be out there playing with my teammates again trying to get better.”
Brose marvels at the inner strength Watson has exhibited in the past five weeks.
“Every time I ask him – whether he’s telling me the truth or not – he says, ‘I feel fine, coach. I’m good,’” Brose said. “He’s had two treatments of chemo and both treatments he was back at practice the next day ready to practice. I am sure he didn’t feel well. I would say, ‘Are you all right?’ He would kind of look at me and say, ‘Yeah.’ Very few times has he said, ‘Can I come out of this drill?’’ We kind of have to take him out because otherwise he would keep going. To say impressive is probably not the word you should use. I don’t know – there is probably a much better one. He has made zero excuses.”
Watson, the second youngest of six siblings, has received plenty of support from family and the Batavia community.
“I knew that we were going to have to be here for him the whole time and just kind of build that family – with the whole team and the school behind him,” Moell said.
Macie Mehlman, Watson’s girlfriend, created T-shirts titled “Win for Watson.” Parents, classmates and even rival Williamsburg players wore the shirts in the season opener.
Watson saw the overwhelming response; if he wasn’t preparing for the rivalry game, he said he would’ve cried.
Proceeds from the shirts went to the family’s medical expenses. Other families have helped with restaurant gift cards, blankets and sports drinks. Some junior varsity and freshman players have shaved their heads.
Watson is thankful for those who add him to their prayer lists.
“My support system is amazing,” Watson said. “It helps knowing that there are people behind me and when I get through this they are still going to be there. My mom and dad (Donna and Jason) have been doing everything they can for me. That’s amazing but they have been doing that my whole life, so I have kind of expected it from them. But the community and my classmates – everything they’ve done for me – that’s just amazing. I couldn’t have seen that coming.”
What does “Win for Watson” continue to represent for him this holiday season?
“Everything,” he said. “I can’t even say more than that.”