Willie Watson, a former Sumter County High School basketball star who went on to become a popular walk-on for the University of Alabama’s 2006 NCAA Tournament team after stepping up from a manager’s job when the Crimson Tide found itself short-handed in practice, has been named an assistant coach at the University of North Alabama.
UNA head coach Bobby Champagne announced the hiring on Wednesday. Watson returns to his home state after serving as an assistant coach at Kentucky Wesleyan in 2016-17. The Panthers posted a 28-3 record last season.

“Coach Watson has a reputation as a very successful recruiter, especially in the South,” Champagne said in a UNA release. “He has an infectious enthusiasm for the game. He was highly recommended by every one of his head coaches, Kentucky Wesleyan head coach Happy Osborne, former Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, former UT-Rio Grande Valley head coach Dan Hipsher and current Bevill State head coach Tommy Suitts.”

Watson served as a graduate assistant for two years under Grant at Alabama. During his time, he contributed to the recruiting of four top-25 classes and assisted the Crimson Tide to the 2011 SEC West Championship and NIT Finals. The 2005-06 Alabama team posted 20 wins and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In the following season, Watson returned to his managerial duties, becoming the head manager as a junior. Watson supervised 11 managers and implemented travel arrangements for more than 60 student-athletes. He also assisted coaches with recruiting, practices, games, team camps and daily office assignments.

Watson earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 2009 and his master’s in sports management in 2011.

He was a four-year letter winner at Sumter County High School, winning back-to-back Class 3A state championships as a junior and senior. He served as team captain his final season.