Today@Sam Article

Bearkat Legends: Boney Watson

Feb. 19, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

The following story is part of a series featuring the Bearkats inducted into Sam Houston State University’s Hall of Honor this fall. All seven inductees will be featured in Today@Sam articles throughout the academic year outlining their lives and athletic journeys.


Boney Watson never had an easy road to success.

Despite all-star caliber play on the court and in the classroom at Columbia High School in Lake City, Florida, Sam Houston State University was the only Division 1 school to give him an offer. This fact drove the point guard to the second most assists in Bearkat history and the third most steals while helping the program establish a winning foundation for the 21st century.

“I truly did feel like the group I played with help set the bar here,” Watson said. “To see how things have grown, all the way to Conference USA and what the coliseum looks like now, it’s pretty cool to look back and see all that.”

Watson was a three-sport athlete through middle school, competing in basketball, football and baseball. While basketball had his heart from an early age, he admits it was not his best sport at the time.

“In seventh and eighth grade, I really only played when we were blowing someone out,” Watson said. “I was part of a group on the bench called The Smurfs, because we were all so small. There were about four or five of us who finally got into the game when we were up by 20 late. Coach would look down the bench and say, ‘Smurfs, let’s go!’”

Fueled by his passion for the sport, Watson continued to improve his game and ultimately earned a starting spot on Columbia’s freshman squad. On nights the team didn’t have games, he would come off the bench for junior varsity. By the time he reached varsity, he was an established starter with elite defensive abilities on one of north Florida’s premier high school squads.

“I had a couple of junior college offers, but I didn’t want to go that route,” Watson said. “I don’t know how many tapes and letters my coaches sent out to how many different schools. Finally, Coach Jerry Hopkins and Sam Houston started writing back.”

After Hopkins visited Watson and his family personally in Lake City, the young point guard was invited to Huntsville for a visit. He was blown away by the immediate camaraderie he felt with his future teammates as well as the fact that he would have access to the gym anytime he wanted.

“My coaches told me that I might start to get more offers later in the process once schools missed out on certain players or realized they didn’t have the guy they thought they had,” Watson said. “But I didn’t wait. I signed with Sam immediately.”

While he expressed fond memories of his first three seasons with the Bearkats, the team struggled to find success on the court. This all changed his junior year with the arrival of Coach Bob Marlin, who would become the winningest coach in SHSU history before he was surpassed by Jason Hooten in 2022.

“Our thought processes aligned. He came in with a defensive mentality and emphasized doing things the right way, and that’s the kind of player I was,” Watson said. “Not only did he know the path to winning, he knew how to make us believe in it as a team. He made us believe it was possible.”

That winning path led to a regular season Southland Conference championship in 2000 and a second-team all-conference selection for Watson during his final campaign at SHSU. This run helped set the foundation for three straight Southland titles under Marlin and set the tone for a competitive shift in Bearkat basketball.

Watson, meanwhile, had completed his collegiate journey, but his career on the court was far from over. After attending the Houston Rockets’ free agent summer camp back-to-back years, he ended up playing abroad in Mexico for a season. Upon returning to the Huntsville area to officially complete his degree, he took a break from basketball and appeared to be done with the sport altogether.

“I gave up on basketball for nearly two years,” Watson said. “During that time span, I held multiple different jobs as a personal trainer, substitute teacher and construction manager for a housing company.”

After returning to Houston and linking up with friends, he began competing in weekend tournaments and even joined a men’s league. This experience rekindled his love for the game and set him on a trajectory that would define his life, professional and personal, as well as take him to numerous destinations across the globe.

“The preparation process was always fun for me, but it had become more like a chore,” Watson said. “When I came back to it, I found that joy again.”

He worked his way into more competitive recreation leagues throughout the city and learned that many of his opponents, who he was consistently outperforming, were part of professional organizations overseas. This motivated him to get back on a strict workout regimen.

“It all snowballed from there,” Watson said. “People started seeing me play in that area of Houston and learned who I was.”

This included a women’s basketball agent attempting to break into the men’s game by acquiring new talent. She set him up with an opportunity to compete in Turkey’s professional basketball league in Istanbul.

“The coach told me he was looking for a point guard who could distribute the ball and run the show,” Watson said. “I was there for about two months and ended up getting cut. During my exit meeting,

they said they were letting me go to find a point guard who could score more. I could play either role, but I thought I was giving them what they wanted.”

Watson was barely back in Houston for two weeks before a different agent presented him with yet another chance to play abroad. Due to preconceived notions, he was at first skeptical of the opportunity.

“Qatar? I had to ask him where it was at, I had never heard of it,” Watson said. “He told me it was in the Middle East and, at first, I didn’t think I wanted to do that.”

Upon further investigation and speaking with other Americans who had competed in the Qatari Basketball League, Watson learned that it operated largely like a westernized nation.

“I was able to maintain an active and relatively normal social life. I shopped at malls and saw movies in English almost weekly,” Watson said. “Most of the league’s other teams had American players, as well, and we would meet for meals and formed friendships. Overall, it was an amazing experience.”

Watson pic 2.jpeg

On the court, Watson helped turn Al Gharafa Doha into a contender after they finished next to last in the previous season. He ultimately wound up with a powerhouse club called Al Rayyan, where he got to play with Yasseen Musa, who he referred to as the “Michael Jordan of the Gulf.”

“I had role models like Coach Marlin teach me what a champion was and that you find out who someone really is in practice,” Watson said. “When I saw Yasseen in practice, I quickly realized why this team won all the time. Their best player was their hardest worker. I was a hard worker myself, so I knew I would love the situation.”

Watson helped Al Rayyan maintain their success and won the majority of his 12 championships with them. Individually, he was a member of the Qatar National Team from 2012-17, All-Qatar First Team 2012-13 and 2015 and the league’s Guard of the Year recipient 2012-13.


One of his championships came later in his career in Kuwait. Before he left, he met a Swedish woman named Beata who played professionally in her own right at the age of 14 before moving to the United States and earning a scholarship to play at Georgetown University. After sustaining an injury, she relocated to Qatar to teach English at the university level.

“She found my information and reached out asking if I knew somewhere she could play,” Watson said. “We ended up forming a friendship and kept in touch. After a season in Kuwait, I went back to Qatar, and ultimately that relationship blossomed into a marriage.”

That marriage would result in four sons: Brayden, Bryce, Blake and Benjamin. The two oldest were both born in Qatar in 2013 and 2015 before the family headed back to the U.S. When their oldest began playing basketball, the couple realized they had a knack for teaching the game as well as playing it.

“Braden began showing some signs of being able to play, and I knew he could do a little more under the right guidance,” Watson said. “Beata and I decided that if he was going to play, we were going to coach him. We wanted him to have a sturdy foundation and not learn bad habits.”

In Houston as well as Tampa, where they ultimately moved to be closer to Boney’s family, other parents began to take notice of the couple’s coaching skills. The word began to spread, and they decided to try it as a business, thus the Watson Basketball Academy was born. The Florida-based organization offers individual and group training for players of all ages as well as youth travels teams.

Watson’s basketball journey came full circle when he was informed of his induction into SHSU’s prestigious Hall of Honor in fall of 2023.

“It was really unexpected,” Watson said. “I knew a couple of my teammates had already been inducted, but it wasn’t something I thought was coming my way. I knew it was a big honor, but I don’t think it hit me until induction weekend. That took it to another level.”

One of the most prestigious honors of the weekend came from Bearkat head coach Chris Mudge, who invited Watson to speak to the current basketball team during his return to Huntsville.

“The hospitality I received from Coach Mudge, Bobby Williams, Chris Thompson and the entire Sam family meant so much,” Watson said. “It was such a special experience for me and my family.

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