Levi Watkins has been named an assistant coach for the NC State men’s basketball team, head coach Kevin Keatts announced.
“I’m excited to welcome Levi and his family back home,” Keatts said. “His passion for NC State has been apparent every time I have spoken to him. Levi has a great basketball mind and he’s helped guide the last three programs he’s been with to the NCAA Tournament. He’s a great builder of young men, who will develop our players both on and off the court. He’s a strong recruiter and communicator. I think he’s going to bring enthusiasm and excitement to our program every day and I’m excited to have him on our staff.”
Watkins is an NC State graduate, who played for the Pack from 2001-05. He played in 97 career games for NC State, averaging 5.1 points and 2.1 rebounds for his career. NC State advanced to the NCAA Tournament all four years he was with the program.
“I want to thank Coach Keatts for the opportunity to return back to my alma mater,” Watkins said. “My family and I are thrilled and I can’t wait to be back on the sidelines for the Wolfpack. Over the last 20 years, I have been extremely fortunate to play, recruit, and coach in and against many of the premier basketball teams, leagues and regions all across this country. I am looking forward to playing a critical role in contributing to the success and next level of men’s basketball here at NC State. As a former NC State student athlete, I know what it means to wear the Wolfpack uniform, the tradition that is engrained into the very fabric of who we are, and the culture and passion that permeates throughout all of Wolfpack Nation!”
After graduating from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Watkins started his coaching career at his alma mater. He spent the 2005-06 season as administrator coordinator, before being elevated prior to the 2006-07 season to video coordinator. After three years as video coordinator, he became director of operations for the Pack prior to the 2009-10 season and spent four years in that role.
He moved into an on-court coaching role with the University of Buffalo for two seasons from 2013-15. The Bulls went a combined 42-20 in his two years with the program and advanced to the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
In the spring of 2015, Watkins moved onto Arizona State as an assistant coach. He spent three seasons with the Sun Devils . In Watkins’ final season at Arizona State, the Sun Devils were ranked as high as No. 3 in the AP poll (highest in school history) and was the last undefeated team in Division I men’s basketball. Arizona State went 12-0 in non-conference play and defeated two eventual 2018 NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds (Kansas, Xavier). Arizona State was the only major conference team to lead their conference in scoring and turnover margin. Also in Watkins’ final season at Arizona State, the Sun Devils broke their home basketball attendance record and participated in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
He spent the last four seasons as an assistant at Ole Miss. In his first season with the Rebels, Watkins helped bring Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament as part of one of the nation’s biggest turnaround seasons. Predicted to finish last in the SEC by the media, the Rebels tied for sixth with a 10-8 conference mark.
Primarily coaching the post players, Watkins was instrumental in the growth and production of the Ole Miss frontcourt. After recruiting graduate transfer Romello White to Oxford, Watkins mentored the new Rebel as he embarked on a record-breaking 2020-21 season. White made an impact in his graduate season, breaking the school record for field goal percentage in a single season (64.9 percent). He also led the team in blocks (1.3 per game). Monitoring the pain and protecting the rim, Watkins’ big men helped Ole Miss lead the SEC in scoring defense. In Watkins’ season, KJ Buffen blossomed into a starting role to average 10.1 ppg and a team-high 6.1 rpg. Watkins guided Khadim Sy in the transfer’s first season in Oxford, as the forward immediately contributed 9.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg.
Watkins prepped at Montrose Christian High School in Rockville, Maryland. He was a 2001 Parade All-American and led his team to a final top 25 national ranking. As a senior, Watkins was named the Gatorade and USA Today Maryland State Player of the Year.
Watkins and his wife, Monica, have two children: Levi (III) and Leah.