While other teens spend their summer walking to the park to play pickup basketball, 16-year-old Tremont Waters has been traveling the country to play hoops at Nike’s invitation—as his dad fields scholarship offers from basketball-powerhouse universities.
Tremont started turning heads on the basketball court years ago as the only kindergartner playing on a fourth-grade team. (Click the video to watch some highlights from his early years on the court.) Now, after finishing his first year at South Kent prep school as the only freshman on a post-grad team, he’s drawing increasing attention from college recruiters.
According to his parents, UConn has offered the New Haven native a scholarship, three years in advance; Yale is already wooing him; Wake Forest, Rutgers, Seton Hall, and Villanova are competing suitors. Tremont was one of only 100 top teen basketball players nationwide to attend an invitation-only Nike camp in St. Louis last month.
College coaches aren’t allowed to contact Tremont directly, but they’re in touch with his dad, Ed Waters, who plays the role of agent, coach, protector, and guide for his son. The Waters family lives on Winchester Avenue.
Waters began shaping Tremont’s basketball future at an early age, waking him up at 5 a.m. to dribble around cones and shoot free-throws. He raised Tremont with a simple, powerful mantra—“Behavior, Books, Ball.” Tremont isn’t just among the top players in his school in scoring, assists and steals, he also has a 4.0 grade point average.
Tremont’s future may lie in the NBA, or the Ivy League. For now, he said, he’s just trying to stay focused on continued success on the court and in the classroom.
Littlest On The Court
On Friday morning, Tremont was sitting on the couch in his family living room, watching new NBA recruits play summer-league ball on TV. He wore a new pair of black-and-yellow size-11 Air Jordan 14s as he spoke about his past and future.
In conversation, Tremont is soft-spoken and quietly cheerful, often deferring to his father to answer questions. As a kid, Tremont’s nickname was “Smiley,” because of his sunny demeanor.
Tremont’s basketball career began inauspiciously, at 2 years old: “I fell over the ball and broke my wrist.”
By 5 years old, he was getting up at 5 a.m. with his dad to run drills in Jocelyn Square Park. Tremont has always worked out under his dad’s guidance. Click the play arrow to watch Waters supervise as Tremont dribbles three basketballs at once and runs passing and shooting drills.
When Tremont was a kindergartner, a coach spotted him and put him on a team with fourth-graders. By the time he was in first grade, Tremont was the team’s starting point guard, and winning games by 20-point margins.
For most of his life, Tremont has been playing with kids who are bigger and older than him. In the fifth grade, an AAU coach discovered Tremont and started putting him with 8th-grade players. In the 6th grade, he was playing against 10th-graders.
The AAU coach, Billy Lovett, helped Tremont go from a local legend to a nationally watched prospect. Lovett took him to Nike camps, and to national competitions. Tremont still plays with Lovett’s Nike-sponsored AAU team in the summer.
Kelvin Johnson, head coach at South Kent, recruited Tremont and put him on a team alongside players who are in a post-high school college-prep year at the school. Within three games, Tremont was starting point guard. Click the video to watch some highlights.
Tremont said the adjustment to boarding school life has been challenging: learning to get himself up and out of bed before 6 a.m. to workout with the team, then keeping up with all his classes without his parents looking over his shoulder.
“It’s been a big part of me maturing,” he said.
Even a 90-minute drive away, however, Tremont’s dad (pictured) has been pushing and supporting his son. Toward the end of the high school season, Waters started getting up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to South Kent and put his son through early morning drills to get him ready for summer play. When the school’s basketball season ended, Waters sat down with his son’s teachers to talk about how to get Tremont’s GPA up from 3.8 to 4.0.
Tremont finished the year as his team’s third leading scorer, second in assists, and number one in steals. He earned an honorable mention from the league’s coaches, a feat that no freshman had ever accomplished.
Meanwhile, colleges have ramped up their efforts to attract Tremont. College coaches began paying attention to Tremont when he was 12, but recruiting rules prevent them from speaking to him until the end of his sophomore year. Schools can, however, send him pamphlets, with phone numbers that his dad can call, leading to verbal scholarship commitments from a number of colleges.
Waters said he recently met with Yale’s basketball coach, an emotional moment when he realized that his efforts to put his son on a path to success were paying off. Yale represents not just athletic success, but access to a network of power and privilege that could open a wealth of new opportunities for Tremont.
“The reason we got involved with sports was to develop character,” Waters said. He and his wife Vanessa Waters (pictured below) weren’t looking only to raise an NBA star, but a successful man. That means getting into college and, if possible, getting a scholarship. “A free degree, that’s been our goal.”
While speaking with the Yale coach, Ed, who works in heating and air-conditioning, said he called Vanessa, who works in nursing, to put her on speakerphone. Ed wanted her to hear for herself about Yale’s interest in their son.
Together, father, mother, and son form another team that Tremont plays for. They call themselves “Team Waters.” Their next stop is North Augusta, Ga., where Tremont will play this month in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball finals. College scouts will be watching.