Trae Watkins named boys' basketball coach at Loudon

By Dave Link

Trae Watkins can't wait to be part of the experience that is Loudon High School sports.

Watkins has been hired as boys' basketball coach after spending the past two years at Bearden under coach Mark Blevins. Watkins played most of two seasons for Blevins before graduating Bearden in 2002.

You don't have to tell Watkins about the rabid fan base at Loudon.

"They're a very, very passionate group, and it's a very passionate community," Watkins said. "It's going to be very exciting to get down there on Friday nights when the gym is packed. I know Loudon is a very special place for sports, and they have great fans."

Watkins, 27, replaces Colt Narramore, who was named coach at Kingston last week after five seasons at Loudon.

Loudon was 10-17 last season, 2-8 in District 4-AA. The Redskins won only three games in 2010-11, but the previous season went 16-14 and reached the Region 2-AA semifinals before losing to Fulton.

Blevins said Loudon made an excellent hire.

"Trae is a great guy," Blevins said. "He will be ultra successful. I think Loudon hit the jackpot with Trae Watkins. He's very knowledgeable, very articulate, and extremely intelligent. He's very personable. He's just a great friend. I lose a lot when I lose Trae. I appreciate everything he's done for me."

Watkins said he knows some of Loudon's returning players and will meet with each one Monday along with many of the school's supporters.

"They'll have an open forum to meet players, parents, and other members from community," Watkins said.

Watkins, of Richmond, Va., moved to Knoxville midway through his junior year at Bearden. His playing time for the Bulldogs was limited in large part because he played the forward spot behind Winston Robinson, who committed to Virginia Tech for the 2002-03 season but ended up at Albany College of Maryland.

"We were the first team to make it to (state) final four in Bearden school history," Watkins said of the 2002 Class AAA state tournament. "We lost to (former Tennessee player) Dane Bradshaw and (Memphis) White Station in the final four."

After graduating from Bearden, Watkins played two years at Roane State Community College and then two years at Tennessee Temple, where he graduated 2007.

Watkins started coaching YMCA basketball, coached at Sacred Heart Cathedral School and was director of Tennessee Team Hustle, an AAU team, before going to Bearden.

In March 2011, Watkins was on the bench as Bearden reached the Class AAA state championship game before losing to Craigmont.

"It was a great experience (at Bearden)," Watkins said. "I stepped into a great situation with a great coach, and somebody that knows how to run a successful program. To be in a great program like that would do wonders for anyone who loves the game of basketball and likes to be around kids and learn."

Watkins, who will teach special education at Loudon Middle School, wants to build on the rich tradition at Loudon.

"I'm very excited," Watkins said. "It's a great opportunity and a privilege."