Det News - Meet 6-11 guard Noah Waterman, who's helped turn

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Det News - Meet 6-11 guard Noah Waterman, who's helped turn

Postby Living in Carolina » Thu Feb 11, 2021 4:10 pm

Meet 6-11 guard Noah Waterman, who's helped turn around Detroit Mercy's season
Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Noah Waterman has long been used to patiently waiting his turn, dating to when he was little, trying to use the bathroom or fill his dinner plate in the modest house he shared with eight brothers and sisters in small-town western New York.

“It was a tight squeeze,” he said, with a laugh. “First come, first served.”

He even had to wait to grow — though when he finally did, he grew in a big, big way, from 5-foot-11 as an eighth-grader to 6-foot-11 as a sophomore in high school.

Noah Waterman
But Waterman’s patience these past several months has been texted to the max. He arrived on Detroit Mercy’s campus in August hoping to suit up when the season started in late November, but the NCAA dragged its feet on a waiver for the transfer from Niagara — he thought it would come this day, then the next, then the day after that, but it never did, until the NCAA approved blanket waivers for transfers in mid-December. By then, Waterman was in COVID-19 quarantine for the second time.

With two practices under his belt, he finally debuted for the Titans Dec. 26 as the oddest of unicorns — a big man who can dribble and make 3-pointers — and is among the chief reasons Detroit Mercy, itself having to wait patiently for success that head coach Mike Davis long has insisted would come, has won five in a row and seven of eight entering the biggest weekend of the season, a series at Horizon League-leading Cleveland State.

Waterman has headlined a big group of impact transfers for Detroit Mercy, surrounding star point guard Antoine Davis with scoring options he didn’t have his first two seasons. Waterman has emerged as Davis’ favorite backcourt mate, and fellow gym rat.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Mike Davis said of Waterman, who’s averaging 9.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in nine games — while shooting 47.2% on 3-pointers.

“He’s going to be a special player.”

Noah Waterman
A chance to grow
Waterman, 20, a native of Savannah, New York, played his freshman season at Niagara, where he played seven games before a torn tendon in his foot ended his season. Just before the season started, the man who recruited Waterman, Patrick Beilein, son of ex-Michigan coach John Beilein, resigned seven months after becoming head coach.

All together, it led to Waterman wanting not just out, but out to somewhere he could grow, and be accepted for what he is, a 6-11 guard, rather than what he seems like he should be but isn’t, a center.

Detroit Mercy was pushed to the front of the list, thanks to Waterman’s long-time trainer, Bryce Stanhope, of Grandville, Michigan, near Grand Rapids. They first met when Waterman was in the fourth grade, and Stanhope was hosting a clinic in Seneca Falls. They worked together for years after, in-person at times, and virtually at others.

They stopped working together around the eighth grade, when Stanhope’s partner didn’t want to expand into high-school kids. Stanhope and Waterman continued to occasionally text, but didn’t see other until three years ago.

At one of the Seneca Falls camps, Waterman walked in, and Stanhope’s jaw dropped.

“He was 6-11,” Stanhope said, laughing. “I kind of looked over there, ‘Is that Noah?’ I went over and talked to him. ‘How did this conversation never come up in all our talks? I understand like 2 or 3 inches, but I’m like, ‘How did, ‘Hey I’m 6-11 now,’ never come up.

“You don’t really see that one too often.”

Usually, if you’re 6-11 or 7-foot, a Division I college basketball team will find you, if for no other reason than to have a 7-footer on the roster. But Waterman wasn’t like most big men, in that he wasn’t just a body, but an athletic scorer.

He was practically embarrassed about his high-school scout tape, and didn’t even want to send it out to college coaches.

He played home-school basketball, not the best competition. Waterman averaged 33.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.9 blocks as a senior, and was his league’s MVP as a junior and senior.

“It’s Noah playing other home-school kids, running down the lane against 5-8 kids doing windmills,” Stanhope said of the video. “It’s the most unfair thing I’ve ever seen.”

Still, there wasn’t much interest in Waterman. He got looks from Belmont and Colgate, but ended up at Niagara because of the Beilein name.

That didn’t last long, nor did Waterman’s time at Niagara.

The same schools came calling last year, as did Appalachian State, and a new one, Vanderbilt, where coach Jerry Stackhouse was “obsessed,” Stanhope said. Stackhouse apparently saw a lot of Brandon Ingram in Waterman. But the grades weren’t a fit, as they aren’t with many people and Vanderbilt.

That’s when Stanhope introduced Waterman to the idea of playing for Detroit Mercy — the connection is Stanhope’s friendship to Detroit Mercy guard Brad Calipari — and introduced Davis to video of Waterman. Waterman liked Davis’ pedigree, particularly the success at Indiana. Davis liked Waterman’s shooting ability, though the ball-handling skills came as a surprise, since the video he watched was cut together to just show Waterman catching and shooting.

The program’s recent travails, including 27 wins total the last three seasons, weren’t a deterrent for Waterman.

“We all know it doesn’t matter nowadays, if you’re good enough to play at the next level, they’ll find you,” said Stanhope, whose training methods — he has worked with players from elementary school to the NBA — focus on skills and not position, which made him a good fit with Waterman. “It doesn’t matter if you’re at Duke or Detroit Mercy.

“And I like that Mike’s kind of an up-to-date coach. He’s doing things the way the game is played now, not the way the game used to be played. That’s something Noah needs. He’s obviously not a center, and Mike’s finding ways to put him in that position, but also get him out on the wing.”

Forget the wing. It was tough enough getting Waterman on the court at all.

Waiting for the NCAA’s decision he got to go home to New York for Thanksgiving, and his nephew caught COVID-19. Because of contact tracing, he was quarantined in New York for two weeks. He didn’t have access to a gym, so he spent most of his time doing pushups.

Waterman got back to Detroit in early December, and about a week later, a friend caught COVID-19. That meant another two weeks of quarantine. The NCAA finalized the waivers Dec. 16, but Waterman was in quarantine for two games against Wright State.

“Man,” Waterman said, “it’s been a crazy season with corona. I mean, it’s been really frustrating, just cuz I love the game.”

Waterman finally suited up Dec. 26 for a home game against Oakland. But Waterman scored eight in his debut, and 19 in his second game.

Detroit Mercy opted out of the following week for a “mental” break for its players. Then, the following week, Detroit Mercy had to cancel its series against Milwaukee, its roster depleted for contact tracing.

The Titans returned Jan. 15, winning two against Green Bay, then played the following weekend, again against Oakland, losing the first game but winning the next — ending the rival’s 10-game winning streak in the series, and starting a five-game winning streak.

Waterman can look clumsy at times, which was expected given that he’s never consistently faced this level of competition, but he’s looked like a star at others, having scored in double-figures in four of his nine games, with more than half his points on 3-pointers. Along with a heating-up Davis and fellow transfers Bul Kuol and Matt Johnson, among others, the Titans are the hottest team in the league, and just on the outside of a potential first-round bye in the Horizon League tournament.

“We’re getting better every week, the guys are kind of gelling together, feeling each other now with the time they’ve had together,” Mike Davis said.

Oakland forward Micah Parrish, left, defends a shot by Detroit guard Noah Waterman (1) in the first half of a game in December at Calihan Hall.
Detroit Mercy is 8-8, 7-5 in the Horizon League. At one point, the Titans were 1-7, 0-4.

Got the look
It’s hard to miss Waterman on the court. First there’s his size. Then there’s his hair. Already at Detroit Mercy, he’s had braids, boxsprings, a man bun, a ponytail and, more recently, a tighter crop. He likes to change it up, he said, always has, since he was a kid. If there’s a hairstyle to be had, he’s probably had it. Asked to rattle off all the different styles, he stopped after a few, saying there were many others.

And that’s just fine by Mike Davis.

“I always said this,” said Davis, “if you’re gonna look different, be different.”

That’s the story of Waterman, who’s as different as they come in basketball circles. He never played AAU growing up. Ben, 6-6, played community-college basketball before a bad ankle injury ended his career.

Noah’s career is just getting started, with no end — or ceiling — in sight. Davis went so far as to call him a potential first-round NBA Draft pick.

Davis also is considered a possible first-rounder after his stellar first two seasons at Detroit Mercy.

Davis and Waterman have become fast friends, on the court and in the gym. At Niagara, Waterman had little company.

“That’s who Noah is. He’s from the middle of nowhere, where all he did is play outside and work on basketball,” Stanhope, the trainer, said of Waterman, who could play three more seasons for Detroit Mercy. “He doesn’t use his phone. He’s not one of these new-age kids. He just wants to work out.

“He especially wants to be in the NBA, and he’s got the talent to be there.”

That’ll take some time. But Waterman’s earning a master’s in patience.
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