There were varying options, so this took a burden

## ## Paul boys basketball’s Waters will continue career at AIC

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Sports Bristol Central Bristol Eastern St. Paul boys basketball senior Noah Waters was still waiting to secure the next chapter of his playing career.

An all conference selection in each of the last two years, Waters has been one of the Falcons’ top scorers during his high school career, which came to an unexpected end due to the coronavirus outbreak, ending St. Paul’s run in the Division III state tournament after a three point win over Maloney in the first round. With the sudden cancellation, Waters was left to deal with the sudden end of one career, while trying to figure out the start of another.

Waters can now breathe easy after committing to American International College, a Division II program in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Waters will be a preferred walk on, meaning he will be guaranteed a spot on the roster but not on scholarship. Still, it means the uncertainty Waters was facing during what wound up being his last high school game against the Spartans has been lifted.

“I had my doubts as an unsigned senior playing in the state tournament, still not knowing what I was going to do at the time,” Waters said. “I still hadn’t made my decision yet. There were varying options, so this took a burden off me. It’s not like I’m getting a full ride to play, but it’s about the chance I’m getting. It’s a weight off of my shoulders, especially after the season was taken out of your hands unexpectedly.”

Waters had been hoping for scholarship offers towards the end of his junior season, but when they weren’t arriving, he decided to take matters into his own hands, reaching out to college coaches and sending in game film to put himself on their radar. AIC responded, and Waters kept in touch through the summer heading into his senior year. Those conversations picked up again as Waters’ career with the Falcons was winding down, and after being accepted into the school as a student with academic scholarship help, Waters had found his next destination.

“They had a few spots open for players, but there weren’t any scholarships left,” Waters said. “They told me they liked my game after watching my film, but they just couldn’t offer me a scholarship. They said they could give me the preferred walk on spot, and I definitely had to take that.”

The athletic scholarship may not be there yet, but the commitment from AIC to Waters is certainly there, which is a weight off of the senior’s shoulders.

“Noah is entering into that relationship with his eyes wide open,” St. Paul head coach Steve Phelps said. “There are no false pretenses. As a recruited walk on, he’s assured a roster position and a uniform. AIC has made a commitment to him as a member of the team, which is certainly a load off his mind as far as the walk on status, but he has a big challenge ahead of him. But I have tremendous confidence in Noah and his abilities and his commitment to the game.”

The challenge will be to turn the Yellow Jackets’ commitment to Waters into a scholarship down the road, as Waters will begin his quest to become a scholarship player once the team begins practice for the 2020 21 campaign.

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Waters said. “I’ve already devoted myself to working hard and competing in practice. I definitely want to turn myself into a scholarship player. I feel like with my hard work I’ll be able to do it. It will be a lot of hard work, and it definitely won’t be an easy journey.”

While Waters knows the journey ahead, he can also embrace the opportunity after the uncertainty he faced just a month ago. He had been in contact with Division III programs like Regis College and Rhode Island College, but he waited for the best situation to present itself, and it arrived in the form of a spot with AIC in Division II.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Waters said. “It’s a blessing to me. It’s a step up, it’s a Division II team, and I’m going to be playing in a competitive conference. I couldn’t leave that on the table. I feel like I got pretty lucky. There are not many opportunities that come like that.”

It’s another dream realized for Waters, and he’ll look to keep that trend going by earning a scholarship with the Yellow Jackets. Those who know him and his game best have little doubt he’ll be able to accomplish that.

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