5 things to know about Celtics 2nd-round selection Tremont Waters

"He's always been the little kid making the big kids look bad."

Tremont Waters
Tremont Waters during the 2019 NCAA Tournament. –AP Photo/John Raoux

With the Celtics’ final selection in the 2019 draft, Boston chose Tremont Waters 51st overall. It’s an introduction to the NBA that will garner less hype than some of the other guards chosen in the draft, but Waters has the ability to make an impact.

The 21-year-old stands 5-feet-10-inches tall and has a 6-foot-2-inch 1/4 wingspan, according to the NBA rookie combine. He also was measured to have the largest hands (9.75 inches wide) among point guards at the event.

In two seasons at LSU, Waters averaged 15.6 points per game, 2.5 steals per game, and 5.9 assists per game. As a sophomore, he helped LSU reach the regional semifinal of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

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Here are a couple other parts of his story to know about:

He’s a New Englander.

Waters grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. He was recognized as a talent to watch from a young age, and ended up at Green Farms Academy in middle school. Yet even as a seventh-grader, Waters was on the high school varsity team, playing significant minutes.

Throughout his youth, Waters played at levels above his own age. He learned to endure the occasional moments of frustration from his bigger, older opponents.

“He’s always been the little kid making the big kids look bad,” said Ed Waters of his son in a 2011 interview. “It’s not going to be new to him that somebody is going to get upset and take a cheap shot.”

By 15, he was at the South Kent School (which was also where Isaiah Thomas went), once again playing significant minutes despite being an underclassmen. He dropped 17 points in a tournament game against Brewster Academy, whose roster at the time included Donovan Mitchell.

He finished his high school career at Notre Dame-West Haven as one of the top point guard recruits in the nation. After initially accepting a scholarship to Georgetown, Waters ended up at LSU following the Hoyas’ decision to fire John Thompson III.

He almost went into the draft a year ago.

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After leading LSU in points and assists as a freshman, Waters was named to the SEC’s All-Freshmen team. He had his sights set on a greater goal: A one-and-done NBA move.

Still, Waters hedged his bet. Though he put his name in for the draft, he didn’t sign with an agent. This left Waters eligible by NCAA rules to return to school if he chose to do so by May 30, 2018.

After working out for several NBA teams, Waters ultimately chose to return to LSU for a second season.

“I feel it’s best to return to LSU this year and continue to improve as a player, teammate and most importantly a young man,” Waters wrote in an Instagram post.

His post-draft comments show he’s aware of the skeptics.

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Virtually every scouting report about Waters mentions his comparatively small size as a weakness, and it’s certainly a reason why he wasn’t a first round pick. Still, Waters continues to use this as motivation.

“I’ve said this before, I’ve been doubted growing up playing basketball. I’ve always been small. My size isn’t going to change,” Waters told reporters. “I’ve been doubted in middle school. People said I wasn’t going to make it in high school, I’ve been doubted in high school. People said I wasn’t going to make it in college, I was doubted in college. People said I wouldn’t make it in the NBA, and now I’m here.”

“My biggest goal and achievement I want to achieve is to just prove that size doesn’t matter,” Waters continued. “It’s about the size of your heart and the size of the bubble that you’re in. You have to keep your circle small, but I have a huge boost of ambition within me.”

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Waters did his part during the pre-draft process, excelling when given the chance:

He was a prolific defender in college.

One of Waters’s strengths is his defense, where he regularly creates turnovers. He won SEC Co-Defender of the Year in 2019, and set a school record with 96 steals. In the regular season, he finished second in steals per-game, averaging 3.03.

Over the course of his LSU career, Waters had eight games in which he produced five or more steals.

“I will tell you that he’s a competitor,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Waters. “He’s not afraid. He wants to take on challenges.”

His 2017 block on Corey Davis Jr.’s last-second 3-pointer attempt helped LSU seal a win over an eventual tournament team.

He’s never been afraid of the bigger moments.

Having grown up consistently playing against kids who were older than him, Waters has been capable of playing at his best in pressure situations.

Early in his career at LSU, he nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Texas A&M:

And in the NCAA Tournament in 2019, it was Waters who hit a last-second layup to beat Maryland and send LSU to the next round: