From Baltimore to Abby

Pair of Charm City ballers join Brooklyn resident on Bearcats basketball team

(left to right) Umbori Watson

While Baltimore was burning last April, Umbori Watson and Kevin Davis were feeling the heat literally.

A state of emergency was declared in the city limits of Baltimore in the spring of 2015, with clashes between police and protesters, after 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray died shortly after being arrested and held in police custody.

Hundreds of people were arrested, businesses were damaged, fires were set, and the Maryland Army National Guard was deployed to control the unrest.

Playing basketball for the Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk Lions, Watson and Davis were directly in the heart of the tumult.

It was a long way from Abbotsford and Columbia Bible College (CBC), where the pair now star for the Bearcats basketball team.

“We were right there when it all went down,” Watson said. “It was a month full of anger on the streets. We were right down the block from it.”

“We saw the riots, the fires, and police cars getting flipped,” Davis added.

Watson said he remembered the uncertainty in his neighbourhood and the curfew implemented by the city.

“They had vans coming out with sirens telling us to be in our houses by 10 or we will be arrested,” he said. “And they were forcefully arresting people on the street. It was like [the movie] The Purge.” “Shopping malls were being raided, but we just stayed out of it.”

“It was a build-up of frustration,” Watson added. “I saw people turn on themselves and damage their own roads, homes and stores. I even saw an old folks home that was just built get destroyed.

Watson and Davis used some of that uncertainty to focus inward and work on their games. They finished up strong seasons for the Lions and eyed Canada as a way to get an education and continue playing the sport they loved.

They were only eligible to play one more year in America, but in Canada they could play an additional three. They began knocking on the doors of literally every Canadian college and university available, but ended up hitting a number of dead-ends. When Watson got in touch with CBC, the institution still didn’t have a head coach for its men’s program.

“I told them to call me once they got their coach,” he said. “Coach Boulton offered me a scholarship and I began Googling everything I could about Abbotsford and the school.”

Davis said it was pure luck that he and his Lions teammate ended up in Abbotsford.

“I was going to go to a school in Massachusetts and he was going to one in North Carolina, but they didn’t work out,” he said. “After Umbori talked to the CBC coach, he told me they were looking for another player and I got in touch with the coach the next day it felt a little like a package deal.”

It was an arrangement that worked out perfectly for Bearcats returning player Elijah Calhoun.

The Brooklyn native was a standout on CBC last season, finishing in the top 20 in the Pacwest in points, rebounds, and assists. His individual talents didn’t lead to team success last year, as the Bearcats finished with only two wins. Calhoun said it’s been a big boost to have Watson and Davis in Abbotsford.

“I finally got some help,” he said, laughing. “Last year, it felt like a whole bunch of individuals, and there wasn’t much desire to get better as a team. This year, Coach Boulton is installing a culture and he wants to make it long-lasting. I feel he’s going to have success and we’re on the right track.”

Watson and Davis are roommates on campus at CBC, and Calhoun is right across the hall. The trio want to shake up the Pacwest.

“Our team is growing and becoming stronger every day,” Watson said. “We’re like the older brothers on the team for some of these 18 and 19-year-olds. They’re pushing us and we’re pushing them. We want that winning attitude here.”

The Bearcats sit at one win and six losses in Pacwest play, but the playoffs aren’t out of the question. The trio said Boulton has willed the entire team to be better.

“He pushes us and he expects a lot of us,” Calhoun said.

“He’s a good communicator and is letting us learn out there from our own mistakes,” added Davis.

The eventual goal for the three players is to continue gathering credits and transfer to a higher-level CIS school basketball program, but they want to make the most out of their time at CBC.

“We want the second half of the season to start off with a bang, and we want to leave our CBC pawprint in the VIU gym (a rival Pacwest team) on Jan. 8,” Watson said. “It starts with them.”

The Bearcats hit the road for the first two weeks of action in the Pacwest, and then return home on Jan. 22 to take on the Quest Kermodes.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UFV offers mental-health screenings as part of Beyond the Blues

Activities at event from Jan. 27-31 include stress bingos and colouring

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

City plots plan to get more affordable housing built as rental crunch continues

Abbotsford’s rental vacancy rate was 1.3 per cent in 2019; New affordable housing strategy considered

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Most Read