Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
They’re used to the look. It’s the same wherever they go. As soon as Kaseem and Kareem Watson step outside their home, they get it. They get it walking down the street, down the local grocery aisle, from bystanders standing courtside. It’s the same curious, squinting head-to-toe glance, followed by a gaze at the other then back again.
Kareem Watson (above) and his identical twin Kaseem are used to getting curious looks on the street. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The two will invariably look at each other and laugh.
They’ve seen the look a thousand times.
Kaseem and Kareem Watson are identical twins down to the eyelashes—6-foot-7 identical twins, Kaseem being the older of the senior pair by two minutes.
The quizzical looks, it seems, have grown to knowing nods this summer, as the Watsons’ stock has risen with college scouts, and they’re looking to turn their improved games over into a vastly enhanced West Catholic team this coming season.
In the previous three years under Burrs’ head coach Miguel Bocachica, West Catholic has gone from 6-17 overall (3-11 in the Catholic League) in 2018-19, to 9-14 (5-9) in 2019-20, to 7-5 (6-4) in the pandemic-plagued 2020-21 season — marking the Burrs’ first league winning record since 2009.
West Catholic reached the 2021 District 12 3A championship, where it lost to Math, Civics and Sciences (61-50).
The Burrs envision bigger horizons in 2021-22.
The last time West Catholic won a Philadelphia Catholic League championship was 1959, led by legends Jim Boyle, Herb Magee and Jimmy Lynam. The Watsons are quite aware of the 62-year drought. They also remember the pounding they took their first three years in the program.
There is a difference, the Watsons stress, between this version of the Burrs as opposed to recent history.
But first, you have to peel away the difference between the twins. Kaseem wears No. 1, Kareem wears No. 3. Other than that, they’re tough to tell apart, unless you’re with them 24/7, like Bocachica.
“I first met them when they were going into eighth grade through their AAU team and they were seven inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. They don’t look alike at all to me now though, so they don’t have to wear different shoes or anything like that,” Bocachica said with a laugh. “At first, I would refer to them as ‘twin,’ I would just say ‘twin.’
“I don’t really know how long it took for me to differentiate them, but they’ve separated themselves from a lot of the other players in this area now. They grew seven inches, but they kept working on their game. It helps that they grew, but the work ethic has always been there.”
The Watson twins, here playing at Philly Live I last month, are always looking for one another on the court. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The Watsons can both dribble, pass and shoot. They’re projected to play guard in college, and will be the foundation of what could be the largest team in the Catholic League this season, with a top seven that covers a wealth of the court with their collective wingspan and height.
Aside from the 6-7 Watsons, 6-7 senior forward Nasir Griffin, 6-6 junior forward Anthony Finkley (who is getting attention from Marquette and Rutgers), 5-9 junior guard Adam “Budd” Clark, 6-5 junior Zion Stanford and 6-4 junior guard MJ Branker Jr. all return. The Burrs don’t have one dominant big, but what they do have are six athletic players and one adroit ballhandler who will give any team in the Catholic League trouble.
The advantage of the twins is they know where the other always is. It’s that unspoken communication that makes them so dangerous. It’s why they plan on playing together as a package deal to whatever school is willing to accept them both. They carry 4.0 GPAs and they’re considered wings.
They’re getting attention locally by Drexel, though New Mexico State, Cleveland State, Hofstra, Eastern Michigan and Niagara have all offered scholarships.
“We’ve always played together and it’s the plan that we’re going to stay together in college, because I know where Kaseem is and he always knows where I am on the court,” Kareem said. “But if one of us gets hot, other than the number, there’s no way the other team can tell the difference between us.
“The other team won’t know who is who. But we know that look, because we’ve gotten it our whole lives. As soon as we step out the door, people have always looked at the two of us, because we look so much alike.”
Kaseem Watson (above) and Kareem are hoping to play D-I ball together. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Under Bocachica, the program has undergone a culture change. This coming season could be the year the Burrs kick through the Catholic League door.
“It was hard the first few years here and this senior group remembers the times we got stepped on,” Kaseem said. “Our chemistry has improved. For a few years, there was some jealousy here and there, and through time, we’ve grown together and matured. It’s all about what we can do as a team.
“Everyone has grown. We’re going to outwork other teams and wear them down. No one has the size we have all over the court. We know the system. We’ll pressure teams into turnovers, make them take tough shots and create our offense off of our defense. It’s hard for teams to defend us, too, because we have seven guys who can score at any time.
“Oh, we know that date, we know it’s been since 1959 since West Catholic last won a [Catholic League] ’ship,” Kaseem continued. “Everything this year is about winning. We know it’s been a long time. I don’t even think my parents were born when (West Catholic) last won. I feel like we have the team and talent to win the league, the city and win the states.
“Everything says we can do it.”
It could be time that West Catholic pulls apart from the rest, though it’s probably going to still be hard to tell the Watsons apart.