A former Crossett resident is returning to southern Arkansas to coach at a school in a neighboring community and will travel to Ashley County this week to play the Hamburg Lions.

Champ Watson just started his first season as the Strong Bulldog basketball coach and said he is looking forward to playing in Hamburg.

“I have friend and family in the area so it will be good to see some familiar faces,” Watson said.

Watson began his coaching career as a volunteer coach at Crossett High School. From there, Watson was an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas-Monticello, under the leadership of Mike Newell.

“Coach Newell has a great basketball mind and he groomed me of what it takes to become a true basketball coach from all angles, including studying the game, developing players, recruiting, mentoring, and how to run a basketball program,” Watson said

Watson went on to become the head coach of an NAIA Div I school, Texas College in Tyler, Texas.

He then went on to be on the staff of Coach Al Flanigan at Little Rock Parkview. At his various coaching positions, Watson has been credited with four state basketball championships , one state track and field championship, one NCAA “Sweet 16” finish, six conference championships, two state runner -up finishes and has an 82 percent winning percentage (235-52) in 10 years.

Watson said he is happy to be back in southern Arkansas and he looks forward to building a program at Strong. He said he said he plans to develop young players through hard work, discipline, and mental toughness.

“Our talent level and our experience is not where I want it to be and it is my job to get it where it needs to be, an elite program,” he said. “That’s all I know, because I’ve been surrounded by successful coaches all of my life.”

Watson said the list of coaches he considers influential includes Coach Bobby Richardson of Crossett, Coach Rodney Lawson — the current track coach at Crossett — and Robert Williams, former Crossett basketball coach.

Richardson won 18 state championships as Crossett’s track coach, and Watson said he still looks up to him.

“The wisdom this man has is unprecedented. He is a remarkable man,” Watson said.

Watson said he was a part of Richardson’s Track from his elementary years at Crossett in 1977 until his graduation in 1984.

“We won seven state championships,” Watson said. “I watched him every day of how he conducted his practices, his planning, and how he communicated with his athletes.”

Watson said that Williams not only taught him about coaching, but he set him up with contacts early in his career.

“He actually made all of this happen for me,” he said. “If he hadn’t allowed me to be able to come to his practices, pick his brain, and just be in his gym, I would have never never met Mike Newell.”

Newell was who added Watson to the UAM staff at the start of Watson’s career.

Watson credits Lawson with getting him started as a volunteer coach and giving him the “coaching bug.”

“He made it happen for me to be a volunteer coach at CHS, and the coaching bug hit me and the rest is history,” Watson said.

Watson and the Strong Bulldogs are currently 1-1 this season.

They won their first game 65-59 when they hosted Hamburg earlier this month, but lost to Fordyce right before the Thanksgiving holiday 54-43.

The Bulldogs will play in Hamburg Thursday night following the junior boys team and Lady Bulldogs teams which start at 5 p.m.

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