Column: Aztecs have senior leadership to thank for trip to MW Tournament championship


Raymond Gorospe

Senior guard Jeremy Hemsley walks off the court following the Aztecs’ 65-56 victory over Nevada on March 15 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

by Kyle Betz, Staff Writer

San Diego State men’s basketball has been able to rely on senior guards Jeremy Hemsley and Devin Watson time and time again.

Both Hemsley and Watson were key catalysts in SDSU’s 65-56 Mountain West Tournament semifinal win over No. 1 seed Nevada, with both players finishing in double figures.

In a 20-point effort, Watson drilled two three-pointers within the first two minutes of the second half.

Between both teams, Watson had the best performance from the three-point line, going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

Watson has averaged 33.8 minutes per game this season and leads the Aztecs in assists (4.2).

Whether it be his playmaking ability in transition or sharpshooting attribute, Watson continues to answer the bell for SDSU.

Hemsley, on the other hand, has been a defensive specialist for the Aztecs, leading SDSU with 1.2 steals per game.

That’s not to say that Hemsley doesn’t have the ability to make big-time plays on the offensive side of the ball.

For example, his three-point shot against UNLV on Thursday gave SDSU a 50-47 lead within the last four minutes, and subsequently propelled the Aztecs to a quarterfinal win.

Redshirt sophomore forward Jalen McDaniels said having veterans like Hemsley and Watson is an asset.

“They bring a lot of experience to the table,” McDaniels said. “Down the stretch, they both made big plays that we needed. That’s what you expect out of your senior guards.”

McDaniels, alongside Watson, was named to the All-Mountain West second team, while Hemsley was given all-defense honors.

Head coach Brian Dutcher compared Watson’s leadership traits to former SDSU forward Winston Shepard, citing an SDSU game versus Nevada years ago.

“Winston told the team during a timeout, ‘What, did you think it was going to be easy?’,” Dutcher said. “Devin basically said the same thing today: ‘They’re good. You didn’t think they were going to roll over; they’re good.’

Dutcher said Watson’s vocal leadership goes a long way.

“It’s (those) kind of comments that come from the players rather than the coaches that make a difference,” he said. “Devin was just a wonderful leader today both on the floor and in timeouts.”

Hemsley and Watson are now faced with a tough task: containing Utah State junior guard and Mountain West Player of the Year Sam Merrill in tomorrow’s Mountain West Tournament championship game.

Merrill scored 35 points in the Aggies’ losing effort versus SDSU on Feb. 9 but was held to 19 points in the Aggies’ win over the Aztecs on Feb. 26.

Hemsley and Watson have one more opportunity to use their leadership to guide the Aztecs to a potential second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.