On Tuesday, Rock Hill senior Karis Watson was named the 2010-2011 Gatorade South Carolina Volleyball Player of the Year for what's she's done on the court.
For her coach, Watson's greatest strengths lie off it.
"Though she's arguably the most versatile athlete I've ever had, athletics are a distant fourth in her priorities," Bearcats coach Cindy Elder said. "She puts God, her family and her education above all else. Karis has her head screwed on straighter than most adults I know."
In addition to being the school president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Watson led the Rock Hill volleyball team to a 38-2 record, its best ever season. Watson is also a two-time All State selection and maintains a 4.51 GPA.
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Having committed to Clemson, Watson is part of an athletic family that includes older brothers Ben and Asa Watson. Ben, a former standout at Northwestern, is currently a tight end for the Cleveland Browns. Following in his brother's footsteps, Asa is on a full scholarship to N.C. State, playing the tight end position after switching to wide receiver for the 2009 Shrine Bowl. He was a captain for that Shrine Bowl team, and won the Outstanding Achievement Award for his GPA at the same event.
But Karis Watson has carved her niche in the sport of volleyball; and in doing so, she has carved out an identity all her own.
"It's really cool to have my own sport," Watson said. "I don't have an older sister that played the same sport as me, so I had the chance to shine. But I credit all my success to my teammates who helped me grow as a person."
One of her teammates and closest friends, Aylie Burnette, offered some words of praise for Watson, who she hopes to join at Clemson next year.
"Karis is the most well-rounded person I've ever met," Burnette said. "We play the same position in volleyball, so I've always considered her a mentor. But even if she didn't play sports, she would still succeed at anything she tried."