ASU's Watson Has Family On Her Mind

By Haley Hirai

Tenaya Watson's family is always on her mind. "I love my family. That's it," said ASU's senior guard.

Growing up in Long Beach, Calif., Watson played basketball along with her three older brothers Charlie, Keith, and Dariyon.

"It was tough on me, being the only girl," Watson said. "The big brother mentality was to get me up and get me strong, so when I played basketball, I just played how they played."

Recently named ASU's Female Athlete of the Week, Watson has always played tough. 

"Tenaya's passion comes through in how she plays," head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "She sacrifices her body in how she plays."

One of the reasons Watson chose ASU was the family atmosphere within the team and the immediate bond she was able to develop with her teammates.

"People always comment that our team is always having fun," Thorne said. "They would do anything for each other. We have each other's backs no matter what. We take pride in positive, healthy relationships." 

The team's fun, light atmosphere is largely due to Watson's sense of humor and her ever-present smile. 

"I know when somebody's down, and I want to bring a smile to their face," Watson said. "I just act like a clown most of the time. Everybody just says I'm goofy. I love to laugh and make people laugh." 

ASU fans know all about this. When the team filmed individual "Sun Devil Snapshots," short video clips shown during games, some players were nervous or uncomfortable being on camera, but Watson was at ease and having a blast.

"She was just laughing too hard. She was definitely the most entertaining," Thorne said.

One of Watson's special traits is her ability to always be in the moment. She might appear intense, until she smiles and delivers one of her goofy lines.

"She enjoys what she's doing while she's doing it, and not have to worry about the past or the future," Thorne said. "She can brighten up a room when she walks in it. She has some zingers, too. She's pretty funny."

Known to her teammates simply as "T," Tenaya's unique first name is often pronounced incorrectly. When the team goes on outings to restaurants where they pre-order their meals, they wait for waiters' comical interpretations of "Tenaya," which Watson embraces with her fun-loving sense of humor. The name derives from her mother Cynthia's hometown of Lynwood, Calif.

"My grandma named me that," Watson said. "There is a street named Tenaya in Lynwood. She told my mom there was a good name, Tenaya, so that's what she named me."

Watson's family has played a large part in shaping who she is as an athlete and a person, including her music tastes. She loves listening to R&B and hip-hop, but especially jazz, because it reminds her of her grandpa.

"We always listened to oldies when we were at his house, so now I always listen to oldies. I love oldies," she said.

Even after four years apart from her family at school, it is still tough for Watson to not be with them constantly. "Sometimes I get sensitive because I'm not with them, or if something happens and I'm not there to help," she said.

Even while juggling school and basketball, Watson always manages to stay strong for her family. "She is the rock of that family," said Thorne. "She is a strong young woman who has not only been a real catalyst for this team, but she's definitely won for her family at home as well."

Majoring in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in family studies and social work, Watson hopes to one day become a social worker. She takes tremendous pride in her academic success, and works countless hours, which she says will all be worth it when she receives her degree in May. 

"I'm a family person, I love kids, and I love families," Watson said. "I know how it feels to have problems with nobody to talk to. I want to be there to help the community."

Watson already is able to impact her teammates and family with her personality alone. Whether it is through her good-natured sense of humor or her ability to command a room with both her smile and her extraordinary athletic talent, Watson is going to finish her Pac-10 season in style with both her Sun Devil family and her loved ones from Long Beach.

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