BOSTON — Looks can be deceiving.
You hear the term thrown around all the time.
For some, it’s a way of life. Take Tremont Waters for example.
If not for the 6-foot-6ish players he’s surrounded by, he doesn’t immediately strike you as a basketball player, let alone one good enough to be drafted.
And when you learn that factoid about him, thoughts of the 5-foot-11 guard being a quick-as-a-cat, go-get-buckets kind of player come to mind.
He’s got a little bit of that in his bag of talents, for sure.
But there’s another aspect of his game – his defense – that maybe more than anything else, is why the Celtics selected him in last week’s NBA draft.
Waters, who grew up in nearby New Haven, Conn., didn’t just have a good few seasons at LSU defensively. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, marking the second year in a row (Robert Williams, Texas A&M) Boston has selected a player who was named as the SEC’s top defender. But with 6-11 Williams, he’s a shot-blocking, athletic freak on the floor.
Waters? He just makes plays; all the time.
And that is why, despite being taken with the 51st overall pick by the Celtics in last week’s draft, there is no hint of self-doubt that he will do whatever it takes to make the team’s roster.
Boston currently has one point guard on the roster: Marcus Smart. Terry Rozier is a restricted free agent and thus the Celtics can match any offer he gets, but it’s not a given that they’ll extend him a qualifying offer.
And so that leaves Waters and fellow second-round pick Carsen Edwards as the backup point guards on the roster.
For Waters, his defense in college came down to a willingness to do whatever his team needed in order to be successful.
It didn’t take long for Waters to realize he could be a major factor for the Tigers by playing great defense.
“I embrace it. I like playing basketball,” Waters said during NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics Talk Podcast. “In general, I doing things in life the right way. So, I feel like if I’m able to help my team and do whatever I can and that’s something I’m really good at, I’ll do that to a tee and be the best defender I can be.”
In addition to his 15.3 points and 5.8 assists per game, he set a single-season school record with 96 steals that broke down to a 2.9 steals per game average last season, which ranked fourth nationally.
And that came on the heels of a freshman season in which he averaged 2.0 steals per game.
But those stats, while impressive, mean very little now.
As a second-round pick, Waters is far from a guarantee of making the Celtics roster, let alone playing in a game.
Even his wikipedia page sounds a bit uh, unsure of how long he’ll last with the Celtics.
And it now has Waters in the position where he is trying to do what most new guys to the league do: embrace the culture of his new team and fit in, while at the same time performing well enough to stand out.
“It’s not a juggling act at all,” Waters said. “I’m just going to be myself. That’s what I’ve done all my life. I’ve been doubted in middle school; people said I wouldn’t make it to high school. From high school they said I wouldn’t make it to college. I’ve been through this thing. It’s a much more exaggerated scale because I’m at the top of the line in the NBA. I know the haters, that pool gets bigger.”
Especially for a late-second round where the chances of making in this league are slim.
In the last three NBA drafts, 19 of the 30 players selected in the bottom-10 like Waters wound up playing in an NBA game.
And while his draft position and his physical makeup may not look the part, no worries.
Waters’ look has been deceiving folks for years as he continues to search out and find success at whatever next-level challenge awaits him.