If anyone were ever destined to be a basketball lifer, it’s Makayla Waterman.
The former Fairmont star and Ohio State forward is done playing competitively, but she’s nowhere near finished with the game.
The next chapter is underway as she is helping out head coach Kevin McGuff and his staff while earning her master’s in coaching at Ohio State.
Her exact role is still being worked out, but for now Waterman has the title of student manager while the school works to gain a waiver to allow her to be a student coach.
Either way, she plans to make her living as a coach in the long run, the only logical step for the daughter and granddaughter of basketball coaches.
Noting two of her uncles are also coaches, she explained, “Basically you go to any family function, it’s like someone’s giving you advice on how to be a coach and what the perfect coach is. And to be honest, I’m the only one in my family that has kind of taken up the coaching role. I think they’re all really excited about that.”
Her father, Mitch, was the head coach of the Dunbar boys’ basketball team while her grandfather, Ben, was a coach at Dunbar as well and the first African-American assistant coach in the Big Ten. Ben Waterman also coached collegiately at Central State and Wilberforce as well high school ball at Yellow Springs, Colonel White, Jefferson and Cincinnati Taft.
Ben, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 87, once confided in his son that he could see the seeds of coaching sprouting within Makayla from a young age.
“My dad didn’t tell me this until after my grandpa died, but he told him he knew I would be a coach just from the way I played and how I talked about it,” she said.
It turns out Ben Waterman also got that impression from observing the way Makayla watched her older sister, Meghan, who was an all-state player at Alter before playing at Niagara.
“He would say, ‘I’ve never seen such a small child be so intrigued by basketball,’” Makayla said.
While she was close with her grandfather, she is only now realizing exactly how big his impact on her was from a basketball standpoint.
“When I was younger, I think it was just more so like, ‘Oh, that’s my grandpa. He likes to watch me play basketball,’ but now like looking back, and hearing things that he would tell my dad and stuff like that, I think I realized he was really pushing for me to be a basketball player, be a coach. And I can probably say that he’s probably excited I’m here at Ohio State.
“I don’t really remember much because I was young. He died when I was in the seventh or eighth grade, but I can just remember there was always a lot of basketball talk and him always teaching me and telling me things.”
McGuff, who signed Waterman as a part of his first recruiting class at Ohio State in the fall of 2013, said there is no doubt she comes from a basketball family.
“No question,” he said. “Coaching is in her blood. Her grandfather, her father. She’s been brought up talking the game, learning about the game, understanding the game. She’s a great communicator with an excellent personality. She’s just fun to be around.”
Waterman made a name for herself at Fairmont, where she teamed with classmate Kathryn Westbeld to take the Firebirds to three state final fours. They won it all in 2013 when Waterman scored 24 points in a 52-48 championship game win over Twinsburg.
She signed with Ohio State as a national top 100 recruit, but her college debut was delayed a season when she tore her an ACL for the second time.
FLASHBACK: Waterman commits to Ohio State
Waterman battled injuries for much of the rest of her career, too, and finished her career averaging 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season.
“I think that one of the biggest things that like led me to become a coach is being hurt my first year and being able to sit to hear the coaching side and seeing how I could help my teammates,” she said. “I really enjoyed playing basketball, but I’ve kind of known I’ve always wanted to be a coach, and I think that my years here as a player really jump started me into what I’m doing now.”
As things stand, her role on the staff mostly is restricted to helping off the court, but Waterman said the biggest thing she hopes to get out of this experience is learning more about what coaches do behind the scenes anyway.
“Being a player you just know the player side of everything, and basketball-wise, I know I can coach,” she said. ‘Like Xs and Os I know it, but I wanted to start to see what actually goes into it because people can only tell you so much.”
The biggest lesson so far? Just how many hours coaches put in off the court that players don’t see.
“A lot of film, a lot of planning, that’s probably the biggest thing that I was surprised by to this point,” she said. “The amount of hours our coaches are here in the office is crazy.
“Now everybody now is like, ‘So now you actually got a little taste, do you actually want to do it?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah I like it.’”
McGuff is happy to have her back with a program that is looking to break in a large group of newcomers for a second straight season.
While the seven-player recruiting class is reputed to be a talented bunch, helping nearly half the roster get acclimated to college life can be a tall task.
“Makayla really impacted our program on the court, and now it’s a great opportunity for her to do the same off the court,” McGuff said. “Love having her around the office. She’s got a great personality.
“She’s got a great mind for the game. She’s got a great feel for it. She’s very, very bright in that area, but more than that I think she can be an excellent mentor for the young women in our program.”
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