Will McBee had an outstanding year on the basketball court for Watertown-Mayer this past season, earning the team’s MVP award among a myriad of other accolades that came when the senior post player averaged 16 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
“Will became such a consistent player for us this season,” said coach Kent Janikula. “We always knew he was going to perform at a high level for us night in and night out. Will did a great job of working expanding his game while at the same time improving on his strengths.”
So it should be no surprise that a 6 foot, 6 inch player averaging a double-double is moving on to play college basketball, yet continuing his career on the court is a twist ending to a stellar athletic career in high school.
“Up until my junior year of high school I was set on becoming a college baseball player,” McBee said. “I was recruited by multiple division II and division III schools from different showcases that I attended. A switch just flipped midway through my junior year of basketball that I enjoyed basketball more than baseball, and that as a 6’6” basketball player I could expand my game and carry over my success to the collegiate level.”
The towering post presence for the Royals was set to be a collegiate baseball player before he made the switch to pursue basketball. McBee led the baseball team in hitting as a sophomore, and attended a few showcases in front of college coaches which generated interest. Several colleges offered him opportunities to play, and then he was invited to camps around the country. The showcases he played in were Showtime Sports (held in Burnsville after his sophomore year), UnderArmour (held in Stillwater), and Showball (IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL).
But McBee started to really develop into a star basketball player, tallying more than 900 points, 600 rebounds and 100 assists in his high school career.
“Experience goes a long way to improvement,” Janikula said. “Will understands the game well and does a great job on the offensive and defensive end even if the ball isn’t in his hands. The game slows down for players when they develop a higher basketball IQ. This has happened for Will and I think him getting a chance to see Varsity action all the way back as a freshmen has made him a smarter player.”
It was not always easy for McBee, as he had to fight through multiple injuries. He broke a finger in AAU basketball after his freshman year that required surgery, broke an ankle on a jump ball the following summer in high school summer league and then tore a meniscus last fall at the start of football that required surgery. But each time he dealt with a setback, he ultimately became stronger, culminating with a stellar senior season that included the honor of player of the week from the Star Tribune.
“One of the biggest reasons he had such a big senior season for us is how much stronger he has become,” Janikula said. “He made it a priority to bulk up. Playing inside the paint you rarely can score/rebound without contact. This season he often was the strongest player on the floor which allowed him to score and rebound with great consistency.”
His development paralleled the team’s success on the court, as the Royals improved their record in each of the last two seasons. The Royals started the 2019-2020 season with an 11-4 start and doubled their wins from 2 years ago, finishing with a winning record for the first time in 3 years.
“Through my 4 years, the basketball team has definitely had its ups and downs,” McBee said. “After that great group of seniors my freshman year were done, there were a lot of question marks going forward. Our struggles my sophomore and junior year proved to help us this past year in having a winning record. I think that our senior experience as well as coach Janikula’s growth in his game plans really helped us close out a bunch of close games, where if we don’t have that we lose five to seven more games.”
And while the senior class got to show their meteoric rise on the court, they unfortunately did not get a chance to show it on the diamond, as the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our baseball team has been down the last few years, we had losing records my last couple years on the varsity team,” McBee said. “To go with the great culture being set by first year coach Ryan Trucke, we had a strong senior class coming in, as well as a few underclassman with some talent where I think we would’ve had a season similar or better than our year in basketball.”
But there are plenty of moments as a Royal to look back on fondly.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing sports here at Watertown-Mayer,” said McBee. “With it being a smaller community, I’ve been able to get to know my coaches and teammates better through different sports.”
And McBee’s favorite moment as a Royal indicates how much he valued the team over the individual, wanting the best for Watertown-Mayer.
“My favorite moment of my high school basketball career was when our team upset No. 5 seed Holy Family my junior season, even though I was injured,” McBee said. “Even though I wasn’t able to contribute anything on the court that game, it was great to see my team celebrate the win after.”
Through all the accolades and memories made, there is one thing that McBee was not able to achieve in his time as a Royal, though he hopes to get there at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
“At Watertown-Mayer I had a great career, but I was under 100 points away from scoring 1,000 over my 4 years,” he said. “That being said, I’d really like to get in the 1,000 point club at Morris. I feel blessed to be able to play basketball at the next level. Though I never really thought of myself as a basketball player, I really began to enjoy playing and I’m very thankful that coach Grove has given me an opportunity to be on the Morris basketball team.”