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Mitchell Watt earns MAC Player of the Year

Photo courtesy of Don Nieman from the EMU game

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

University at Buffalo center Mitchell Watt has been chosen as the Mid-American Conference’s Player of the Year by a panel of 24 MAC News Media Association members.

Watt, the 6’11 starting center for the MAC Tournament’s #2 seed, finished fourth in the conference in points per game (16.0), fourth in rebounding (7.4 rpg) and second in blocks (2.4 pg). The senior earned 11 votes, narrowly beating out Miami (OH)‘s Julian Mavunga (eight votes).

During an off-season flooded with hype about his teammate Javon McCrea, Watt quietly added 25 pounds of muscle—with a focus on his lower body—and added range to his jumper. The results were evident: Watt averaged nine more minutes per game, forced post defenders to respect him on the perimeter and scrapped for tough late-game rebounds.

Moreover, Watt has spoken at length about his desire to close his Bulls’ career on the highest possible note: the school’s first ever MAC Tournament championship. Individually, his play is peaking at the right time, and the Bulls look dangerous sitting only two wins from an NCAA Tournament berth.

The moving part of this story, though, is the culmination of a basketball career that nearly ended early. In his sophomore year, the Goodyear, AZ native warded off Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system, leading to blurred vision and the loss of function in the limbs. After two weeks in the hospital, Watt returned from the “mystery” illness without explaining his condition until his senior year. That’s courage and selflessness.

It’s a magical story with a fitting honor in MAC Player of the Year. Will the story continue into the NCAA Tournament?

TAGGED: buffalo bulls, college basketball wny, guillain-barre syndrome, mac player of the year, mitchell watt, reggie witherspoon, university at buffalo

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