Freshman Zach Waterhouse did not believe he would still play competitive basketball after high school, but in his first season on the Emerson men’s basketball team, he won two separate Rookie of the Year awards for best freshman player in the New England area.
In 28 games, Waterhouse averaged 16.6 points—the third most on the team and eighth highest in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. He became the first Emerson basketball player to win the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year award and also received the Division III Rookie of the Year award from Noontime Sports, a New England-based sports website.
The only other Emerson player to win the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year was Meredith Weber, who played for the women’s lacrosse team in 2014.
Waterhouse grew up in Hampton, New Hampshire, about an hour drive from Boston. At a young age, Waterhouse played football, baseball, soccer, and tennis, but he first discovered basketball when his parents signed him up for a local youth recreational league in second grade.
Waterhouse said his love for the game came from his parents, who told him sports offer valuable life lessons and friendships.
“I tried to play everything and I ended up liking soccer and basketball the most—that’s what I played all the way through high school,” Waterhouse said. “You have a lot of cool experiences with people you really like to hang out with, and you get to battle on the court with them.”
While looking at colleges, the question of whether or not he would continue playing basketball at the collegiate level arose. Choosing between University of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Emerson College, Waterhouse opted to join Emerson and give basketball another go.
“Emerson was kind of like the risky choice for me,” Waterhouse said. “But I decided on the last possible day where I was going to go and I just said, ‘I’m going to Emerson, I’m going to try to play basketball’ because I can always transfer out or I can always do something if I don’t like it.”
Waterhouse said choosing Emerson was risky because he did not know what he wanted to study and he would be furthest away from home.
Listed as a 6’2” guard, Waterhouse is just one of eight freshmen to make the men’s basketball roster. Waterhouse said being on the basketball team helped him fit into Emerson as he became good friends with other freshman players on the team upon meeting them—most notably guard Trevor McLean and center Jarred Houston.
“It’s awesome playing with [McLean and Houston],” Waterhouse said. “I think they’re just great kids and basketball-wise, they’re both hard workers and they’re very different players. Trevor’s a great point guard and Jarred is huge because he’s 6’10” and there aren’t many kids that are that big and that dominant down low.”
On the court, Waterhouse is known for his shooting ability. He shot a scorching 42.5 percent from the three-point line and converted 2.4 three-pointers per game.
Head coach Bill Curley said one of Waterhouse’s best qualities is his ability to fight through pain.
“He might be one of the toughest kids we’ve ever had here,” Curley said. “We’ve seen him get hit a couple times but he’s like ‘I’m fine.’ He’s got a high pain tolerance that he plays through. He’s a great example for our guys to see that you can play in some discomfort. He doesn’t exaggerate or anything like that, he understands the difference from being hurt and injured.”
As a freshman, Waterhouse grew under the tutelage of captain and senior guard Geoff Gray.
“Geoff has taken me under his wing since the day we got here,” Waterhouse said. “He made me think, ‘okay, I want to be like Geoff when I come here’ because Geoff has had a really good experience here. He said he loved it and I can tell he really meant that.”
Noontime Sports uses a committee of coaches, media members, and athletic directors to select winners of its end of the year awards strictly from Division III schools in the New England area.
Waterhouse said he did not think he would win Noontime Sports Rookie of the Year because of the competition in the area.
“I never thought that would happen considering on our team, we have a lot of great freshmen, and in the NEWMAC and the New England area there are a ton of great freshmen playing basketball,” Waterhouse said. “It just makes me want to work harder because now that I have that, there are going to be people [who] are coming for me in a sense.”
As Gray graduates this year, Waterhouse hopes to step up and fill in the gap left behind in his absence. Waterhouse said he wants to improve his playmaking ability this offseason and help lead the team back to the NCAA tournament.
“Since we’re going to lose Geoff, we’re going to need more guys to handle the ball so that’s the biggest thing to work on,” Waterhouse said. “Our goal next year is to win the NEWMAC and win a couple tournament games.”
Curley said Waterhouse’s character on and off the court helps the team’s success.
“He had a tremendous year and added a great value to our team,” Curley said. “I think the biggest thing with him is that he leads by example—he gets out there, he keeps playing, he’s got a great attitude and the guys like him. I think every teammate couldn’t be more thrilled for him, so I think it speaks a lot about the kind of guys we have and why we’re able to be successful this year.”