Ranking the Contenders: Peyton Watson
Last year at the USA Basketball Mini-Camp in Colorado Springs, Peyton Watson had his breakout moment. The five-star prospect showed that he had the necessary abilities, intangibles and versatility to make him a priority target for some of the top programs on the West Coast.
Watson is the de facto No. 1 prospect for most of the Pac-12. Michigan has also showered him with attention, and there is always a chance that a blueblood will decide to enter Watson's recruitment, but it seems likely that Watson will play near his southern California locale.
Here is how Rivals.com Basketball Analyst Corey Evans ranks the contenders for Watson's eventual commitment.
Watson grew up in UCLA's backyard and the Bruins have clearly emphasized him in recruiting. UCLA may just have one senior on its roster this season, depending on whether Chris Smith keeps his name in the NBA Draft. Either way, Smith's development over the years is exactly what Mick Cronin is pointing to with Watson as an example of how the five-star prospect could flourish at UCLA. The Bruins are not the clear-cut favorite, but they are among the teams to beat.
It has become fairly routine for Oregon to sign a nationally-recognized class every year that includes at least one five-star commitment, and Watson is one of the program's top targets in the 2021 class. The Ducks are in solid position with Nathan Bittle and Jaden Hardy, but have always relied on a jumbo wing that can play many parts and that role could catch Watson's eye.
Sean Miller and his staff took a rather unconventional path to filling out the Arizona roster for the upcoming season, landing five international born prospects that will infuse the Wildcat program with talent and versatility. For the 2021 class, Arizona has locked in on several national prospects but have also been hot in pursuit of Watson. There is a mutual interest by both parties and while the Wildcats will have to defeat a bevy of its league rivals, Watson may be the likeliest five-star to commit to Miller’s crew.
Like Watson, Washington coach Mike Hopkins is from Southern California and has continued to pursue some of the area's best. He has largely come up empty-handed, but Watson could be the recruit that changes that. The Huskies were one of the first programs to identify him as a priority target and have already brought him to campus for an official visit. Washington is an underrated program for producing NBA talent and, after seeing Mattise Thybulle take his game to the next level under Hopkins’, which may have caught Watson's eye.
The Wildcats have not offered yet, but are still among the leaders for Watson. Kentucky has done a solid job of remaining in touch with the five-star over the past few months, but the program's recruitment efforts have been made difficult due to the cancellation of the Nike EYBL season and the NCAA's moratorium on in-person recruiting. Watson is not going to wait around forever, so chances are he will move on from the Wildcats and wrap up his recruitment if an offer is not extended in the coming weeks. If Kentucky goes all in, however, it may be hard to beat.
Michigan has already addressed some of its needs along the perimeter with the additions of Isaiah Barnes and Kobe Bufkin, but the Wolverines would have no issues taking someone of Watson's talent and ability. The five-star said even before receiving a Michigan offer that he really wanted to hear from the Wolverines. The Wolverines, however, have a greater need at the lead guard spot and, with Watson having several good options that are closer to home, it is going to be an uphill battle for Michigan.