“I don’t enjoy losing, but I’m enjoying these kids,” Hatchell said. ”(Watts) is in the gym all the time, and (Bryant) plays really good.”
Watts’ success against Miami wasn’t a surprise for Hatchell, who has been continually impressed by the first-year’s dedication.
“Kids come in here all the time as I come and go,” Hatchell said. “It doesn’t matter what time it is, (Watts) is always in here shooting. She is just going to continue to get better and better because she’s fearless and wants to learn to be great.”
Being great was always a part of Watts’ plans when she became a Tar Heel, but her hand has been forced due to the injuries UNC has faced.
Those injuries culminated with Sunday’s news that the Tar Heels will be without senior forward Xylina McDaniel for the rest of the season. She suffered a tear in her meniscus and ACL in her right knee on Thursday against Georgia Tech.
Injuries have forced young players like Watts to see extended minutes. Watts played all 40 minutes against Miami, as UNC played just six players.
When a first-year player is playing the entirety of a game, fatigue can be a definite factor.
“When it gets to end of the game, Coach Hatchell tells us that it’s a mindset to not be tired,” Watts said.
But fatigue was unavoidable against the Hurricanes, as UNC was outrebounded 14-7 and outscored by nine points in the second half.
Watts has seen an increased role for the Tar Heels considering the team currently boasts a light roster in the midst of conference play.
“In ACC play, the teams are better and the games are a lot faster,” she said. “They will have three big post players on the floor and it may be just me and (first-year guard) Destinee (Walker) going against them.”
From this point on, no game will be easy for Watts and the Tar Heels.
“Everyone in the ACC wants to beat us,” Bryant said.
But while the season has not been going the way Hatchell expected, she is excited to see the growth and development of her young players.
“You improve and get stronger and better through adversity,” she said.