Two America All-Conference selections, one second-team Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Star pick and one Binghamton University Athlete of the Year honor are just some of the numerous accolades senior guard Imani Watkins has earned throughout her career as a member of the Binghamton women’s basketball team. Despite the extensive list of awards and achievements, Watkins is still searching for the most important of them all: an America East (AE) Championship trophy.
Over the past few months, Watkins became the third BU player to be selected twice to the All-Conference team and the first women’s basketball player to earn the Binghamton University Athlete of the Year award since the 2003-04 season. Even though the accomplishments are undeniably noteworthy, Watkins truly embodies the Kobe Bryant “Mamba Mentality,” as she holds her desire to become conference champions above all.
“[The most recent All-Conference selections] don’t matter now; it matters in March,” Watkins said. “It’s a blessing, it’s an honor, but I’m prepared to do what it takes to for that name to be there in March.”
As the principal offensive threat last year, Watkins ranked among the top-10 leaders in the AE in every major statistical category. It was not surprising to anyone that Watkins made the All-Conference team this past season as she was second in scoring (18.8), third in steals (2.2), sixth in blocks (1.0), eighth in both rebounds (5.6) and assists (3.0), first in 3-point field goals per game (2.7) and 10th in both 3-point field goal percentage (.339) and free-throw percentage (.723).
Even though her statistics speak volumes as to her complete skill set, Watkins admits that there is certainly room for improvement. In the off-season, she sought to work on her ability to get her teammates more involved.
“Just making everyone else around me better and feeding confidence into everyone else because when everyone else is scoring, it makes it a little bit easier for me to score, a little bit easier for me to rebound,” Watkins said when asked about the goals of her summer training. “When we’re great as a team, I’m great as a player.”
Entering her final year as a Bearcat, the team was selected to finish in third place in the 2017-18 preseason coaches’ poll, marking the third time in the past 16 seasons that it was chosen as the third seed. Although the program has displayed clear improvement since the 2015-16 season, largely due Watkins’ play, Watkins does not view the preseason team projection as one that carries much significance.
“It doesn’t really matter, six or seven could be gunning for one,” Watkins said. “Preseason is a hat tip to last season, but this season we want to be better. I don’t remember where we were picked to finish last year, but we wanted to finish one.”
Hoping to finish first and claim the AE title in March, Watkins and senior center Alyssa James are tasked with leading the program past New Hampshire and Albany. With one more season remaining for the indisputable franchise players, there is just one achievement left on the table.
“Like [Alyssa James] said, we want to win, plain and simple,” Watkins said. “I think we have done as much as we can do thus far as leaders and as seniors to make sure that we’re on the right path to making that happen.”
Beginning the season with 1,468 points, ranking fifth all-time in program history and top-40 all-time in the AE, Watkins has a realistic chance at becoming the No. 1 scorer in Binghamton women’s basketball history. Despite this possibility, Watkins acknowledges there is still much to accomplish from her perspective on the final stage of her BU career.
“Personally, there’s a lot that I want to do,” Watkins said. “I want my name all over the record books, I want this team to be all over the record books when it’s all said and done. I think we have the personnel and the coaching staff to do that and I think that we have the will and the heart to do that.”