STILWELL D.J. doesn't stand for Dandy Jumper, but it should after Thursday.
Lawrence High senior guard D.J. Watkins erupted for a career-high 37 points, one shy of the LHS scoring record, to lead the Lions to a 78-63 boys basketball victory over Kansas City (Mo.) Center in the first round of the Blue Valley Shootout at Blue Valley High.
"My teammates did a really good job of getting me open and finding me when I was open, and I knocked the shots down," said Watkins, whose given name is Daniel Joseph.
The 6-foot-2 Watkins hit 12 of 19 field goals, including seven of 11 three-pointers, and six of eight free throws. Watkins, who's receiving recruiting interest from Columbia, Harvard, Davidson, University of Chicago and Pomona in California, had a whopping 22 points with five three-pointers in the first half.
"I've never seen anything like that," said LHS junior Brandon McAnderson, who scored 11 points and made four of five field goals. "That was the true meaning of fire."
The LHS scoring record is 38 points by Wayman Wilburn in 1976. Watkins now ranks second, one ahead of former Kansas University All-American and NBA pro Danny Manning, who scored 36 points in a game during his one season (1983-84) at LHS.
Watkins, unaware of the scoring record until after the game, missed two free throws in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I need to concentrate more on free throws," he said.
LHS coach Chris Davis, who pulled Watkins with 23.4 seconds left, also was unaware of the scoring record. He knew Watkins had a bunch of points but didn't know how many.
"I had no idea where he was at," Davis said. "Someone from the sidelines said, 'I bet he scored 30' and we didn't know if he was there yet."
Lion senior Stephen Vinson scored 11 points and dished 12 assists. Watkins benefited from several of those assists.
"Both D.J. and Stephen have been shooting the ball well," Davis said. "When you get the two of those guys together and they play like they did today and hit the other one when they're hot, it's going to be hard to stop the two of them."
LHS (1-1) trailed 22-14 after one quarter and 33-32 with 1:07 left in the first half before scoring the final seven points of the second quarter and never trailed again. Watkins' three-pointer from the baseline following a no-look pass from Vinson ignited the surge against Center (3-1).
Center, unbeaten before the tourney, was led by senior Odis Smith, who had 22 points.
The Lions led 64-49 after three quarters and extended their lead to 21 71-50 early in the fourth period. The Yellowjackets never pulled closer than 11 points in the final quarter.
LHS senior forward Jamie Peterson had nine rebounds to lead the Lions.
The Lions, the defending Shootout champion, were coming off a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Topeka on Saturday.
"We feel like we should have won last week," McAnderson said. "We played the same type of team tonight and we succeeded."
Watkins wasn't surprised the Lions rebounded from the season-opening loss.
"I knew we were going to come out strong because we had a good week of practice," Watkins said. "We feel like we've got a right to defend our claim to this title."
The LHS coach was also pleased with the effort in practice leading to the three-day tournament.
"After Saturday, our practices were really good and our guys were focused," Davis said. "We came out ready to play. They (the Yellowjackets) were so hot and they were on early. We took a timeout and said, 'The ball will bounce our way and we'll be back in the game.'"
Late in the fourth quarter, the contest was momentarily delayed when an LHS administrator confiscated a cell phone from the Lion student section. A cell phone had been ringing during Center's free-throw attempts.
LHS will play the KC Sumner-Webb City, Mo., winner at 6:45 tonight.