Shared from the 4/5/2017 The Augusta Chronicle eEdition


Coming to states worth it for Wildcat


APRIL 2: Wrestling

APRIL 3: Swimming

APRIL 4: Independent girls basketball

TODAY: Independent boys basketball

THURSDAY: South Carolina girls basketball

FRIDAY: South Carolina boys basketball

SATURDAY: Georgia girls basketball

SUNDAY: Georgia boys basketball

For Jelani Watson-Gayle, it all started with an email.

“March 19, 2015, I was at my desk like I am day to day, and I get an email from a young man from London,” Westminster coach Mark Tebbs said.

Watson-Gayle sent the message to Tebbs outlining his desire to come to the United States to play basketball, get a good education and prepare himself to play collegiately.

“It’s not easy for exchange students,” Tebbs said. “It’s a rare percentage that really get to play.”

Two seasons later, Watson-Gayle is two-time All-State, a member of the 1,000-point club, and The Augusta Chronicle’s Independent Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Beyond his play on the court, which produced more than 20 points per game as a senior this year, his maturity and work ethic impacted Tebbs and the program in positive ways.

Watson-Gayle would leave the school after practice and go to the YMCA along with fellow Westminster standout Michael Dukes to continue practicing.

He put in the work to fulfill those desires laid out in the initial email to Tebbs.



Westminster’s Jelani Watson-Gayle is a two-time All-State performer who joined the 1,000-point club this season.

“I remember sending out emails just trying to get over here and go to school and prepare to go to the next level,” Watson-Gayle said. “As soon as I came I could tell it was a loving environment. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been surrounded by good people.”

Now, he’s mulling over college offers from various locations and levels. One college coach who recruited him said Watson-Gayle’s character and demeanor on the court helped win him over.

Before making a decision on his future, though, Watson-Gayle looked back at his time at Westminster with fond memories. He helped guide the Wildcats to a 23-4 record and a trip to the GISA Class AAA Final Four as a senior, while Westminster earned a region title as an underdog his junior year.

Beyond that, he became a strong leader and has left an enduring mark on the program.

“It feels like my second home here because of the people I’ve been surrounded with,” Watson-Gayle said. “It’s been a great experience.”

Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or

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