Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Fan-Favorite Watson Leads Huskers Into Senior Day

By Brian Rosenthal

Senior Day for the Nebraska men’s basketball team would’ve had a considerably different look had one player followed the lead of some of his former teammates.

That’s one reason Sunday should be extra special for Glynn Watson Jr. as he plays his final home game, against Iowa, at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

He held his word, deciding to stay when others in his recruiting class transferred after his sophomore season. Watson persevered through some tough times, and he leaves the program as one of the most respected, well-liked players in recent memory.

“Just sticking with it, not giving up on the system or giving up on what I had here,” Watson said. “I know I probably could’ve gone somewhere else, but anybody can give up and go somewhere else. I didn’t want to.”

It’s no wonder head coach Tim Miles holds Watson in such high regard. Miles wished the world that his senior point guard could play in the NCAA Tournament this season, because nobody deserved it more, he said.

“That relationship, on an emotional level, lasts a lifetime,” Miles said. “Glynn’s a young guy I want to be able to help every way I can. He deserves that. He’s a guy that I just can’t wish for enough good things to happen. As I look at that, all I care about is how I can help him, what we can do to help him to where he wants to go.”

The NCAA Tournament, though, won’t happen unless Nebraska (15-15, 5-14) wins next week’s Big Ten Tournament.

But even this season’s disappointing outcome hasn’t made Watson pause and wonder what may have been had he left, too.

“Everybody has different paths, so I don’t really judge people for that,” Watson said. “I thought this was the place for me and I liked it here. I liked the coaching staff, my teammates, even though I had different teammates every year. I like the fans here. They do an incredible job supporting us. I just had fun playing.”

It’s not like Watson lost sleep over a major decision to leave or not to leave after two seasons in the program. He always planned on staying, even with rumors swirling.

“Once everybody was leaving my sophomore year, it was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I talked to my parents and things like that, but I really didn’t think too hard about (leaving),” Watson said. “I felt like this was the place for me. I got a good opportunity here for myself. I just wanted to put Nebraska on the map.”

Watson will make start number 108 in his career, ranking him fourth all-time in Nebraska history. He’s one of six players currently on the school’s top 10 list in both assists and steals, joining Brian Carr (1984-87), Cookie Belcher (1997-2001), Tyronn Lue (1996-98), Erick Strickland (1993-96) and Clifford Scales (1998-91). Watson is currently in eighth place in assists (358) and fifth in steals (171).

Watson said it’s not yet sunk in he’s about to play his final home as a Husker.

“Just going to go out there and try to get the ‘W’ and have fun in my last home game,” Watson said.

Watson, Tanner Borchardt, Isaac Copeland Jr., James Palmer Jr. and Johnny Trueblood will be recognized during Senior Day ceremonies at 12:40 p.m. The group has combined for nearly 3,400 points along with more than 1,150 rebounds and 625 assists during their time as Huskers. 

Copeland, a transfer from Georgetown, suffered an ACL tear in January and won’t play Sunday, but his jersey will be in action. Junior Isaiah Roby, through approval from the NCAA, will wear Copeland’s No. 14 jersey, complete with Copeland’s name, as a tribute to the injured senior.

“That’s great,” Copeland said. “He’s my son. I raised him well. Out of everybody, I’m glad he’s doing it.”

Rehabilitation continues to go well for Copeland, who’s still planning a professional career and will soon sign with an agent. Copeland decided to return for his senior season when the 23-year-old could have left to play professionally, but he said he has no regrets.

“I came here and I did what I wanted to do. I got better,” Copeland said. “I grew as a person and I helped the program get better.”

The recent losses have hurt Copeland. He said he feels he could’ve made a difference but also isn’t blaming the team’s recent skid solely on his injury.

“You can’t say that. We were already losing; we lost three games in a row with me. So it’s hard to say that,” Copeland said. “A lot of things happen. It’s hard to win in the Big Ten. I’m not going to be selfish and say that.

“Making history is hard. A lot of people want to do it, and a lot of people think they can do it.”

Copeland has been a big influence on the bench during games and at practices, even while injured.

 “What Isaac does, he is an excellent connector and talks to the guys,” Miles said. “He knows the game well. You can see him talking to guys. They’re struggling and he’s trying to give them options.

“His care factor is really good. It’s not about Isaac. It is about the team. That’s always really helpful.”

Palmer, a transfer from Miami, said his two seasons with Nebraska “have been phenomenal.” He needs 44 points to become the sixth Husker to score at least 600 points in a season, and the first since Lue in 1997-98.

Palmer currently sits ninth on Nebraska’s single-season scoring list and needs 13 points to climb to seventh. He could become only the fifth player in school history to have 500 points and 100 assists in the same season. Palmer already has 536 points and needs nine assists to join Strickland, Jaron Boone, Lue and Tai Webster in the 500/100 club.

Borchardt, from Gothenburg, and Trueblood, from Omaha, are in-state players who joined the team as walk-ons. Both players left the program at one point, only to return.

Trueblood returned because he said wants to become a coach and felt his time in the program would be valuable in that regard. Nebraska fans may remember him most because of his participation on last season'’s so-called “Bench Mob,” although Trueblood jokes he’ll go down as a 100-percent career-3-point shooter – after making his only attempt, against Rutgers, as a freshman.

Borchardt, meanwhile, became a major contributor by his senior season, eventually working his way to a regular starting position after the injury to Copeland.

“I would have never thought this would happen to me,” Borchardt said. “I’m so blessed that it did. I’m just thankful for all the opportunities I had.”

Borchardt and the rest of the seniors would love nothing more than to knock off Iowa and enter the Big Ten Tournament, albeit as the No. 13 seed, with some needed momentum … and see what happens from there.

“Finishing strong says everything about your character,” Borchardt said. “You don’t want to just lay over and let them kick you while you’re down. Show some pride and show them what you’re made of.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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