When VCU’s season came to an end in March 2021 unceremoniously as the Rams had to withdraw from the NCAA Tournament due to COVID protocols, the program entered the offseason chomping at the bit to get back on the court. For most of the returning players, they had to wait just a couple of months to have another game.
However, Jamir Watkins needed to wait much longer. The next time he took the floor for a game was 20 months later when the Rams opened the 2022-23 season at home against Manhattan.
The Trenton, N.J., native was forced to miss the entire 2021-22 season after tearing his ACL during a preseason practice in September.
Now back in the mix, Watkins emerged as a major part of Mike Rhoades’ squad. The redshirt sophomore has started each game and is playing 24.7 minutes per game.
“I feel like he worked triple, putting in the overtime and just working harder than ever,” said teammate Jayden Nunn, referring to Watkins’ work coming back from injury.
The 6-foot-7-inch forward is averaging 9.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks in 24.7 minutes per game. His scoring and rebounding output are both third highest on the team. He has connected on 41.2% of his 3-point attempts, the best mark of any Ram with at least 10 attempts. His 46.5% shooting from the field stands second best on the team.
Watkins ranks in the top 20 in the Atlantic 10 in 3-point field goal percentage, rebounding, blocks and steals.
“He’s a really talented player,” Rhoades said. “He’s got an edge to him. He fits us tremendously. He’s just got to continue to mature. We need him on the court.”
In the season opener, Watkins netted 13 points and converted on two of his five attempts from beyond the 3-point line to help VCU claim a 73-56 win over Manhattan.
Five days later, the Trenton Catholic alum missed out on a double-double by one rebound. He tallied 10 points, nine boards, three blocks and three assists in 29 minutes.
Watkins turned in a stat-sheet-stuffing performance to claim his second career double-double last weekend against Memphis. He netted 14 points (one shy of his career-high), grabbed 10 rebounds and tallied a career-best four steals on the defensive end. He converted 5-of-11 from the floor and his 2-of-5 from beyond the arc.
“He’s real special,” Nunn said. “He helps our team a lot and [will] help our team down the line as well.”
After scoring in double figures seven times in 26 games as a freshman, Watkins has topped 10 points four times in the Rams’ first six contests this season.
The Rams, who were picked third in the A-10 preseason poll, are scheduled to host Vanderbilt Wednesday night before traveling to Temple. VCU is slated to open conference play on New Year’s Eve at home against La Salle.