Former Lehigh Valley women’s basketball player inducted into USCAA Hall of Fame

A college student holding an award

Andrea “Dre” Watkins is the first women’s basketball player in Penn State Lehigh Valley history to be inducted into the USCAA Hall of Fame. She was inducted during the USCAA’s Annual Convention in Pittsburgh on June 2.

Credit: Penn State Lehigh Valley

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Andrea “Dre” Watkins is the first women’s basketball player in Penn State Lehigh Valley’s history to be inducted into the United States Collegiate Athletic Association's (USCAA) Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place at the USCAA’s Annual Convention in Pittsburgh on June 2.

Watkins’ college playing career included countless highlights and accolades. She was a four-year starter throughout her time at Lehigh Valley. She had a stellar career, starting 85 of the 89 games she played in, averaging 18 points per game. In her first season, 2014-15, she was named Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) Newcomer of the Year, PSUAC 1st Team All-Conference, USCAA 2nd Team All-American and was PSUAC Leading Scorer (19.2 PPG) where the team made it to the USCAA Final Four and was named to the USCAA All-Tourney team. In addition, named PSUAC All-Academic.

In her second season, 2015-16, she was named PSUAC Co-Player of the Year, PSUAC 1st Team All-Conference & USCAA 1st Team All-American.

Going into her 2016-17 season, she helped the team earn the program’s best-ever — at the time — record of 21-4, a perfect 14-0 conference record and USCAA National Runners-Up. Her individual awards were USCAA Div. 2 National Player of the Year, a first in PSUAC history and Lehigh Valley history to be named National Player of the Year; USCAA 1st Team All-American; PSUAC Player of the Year; PSUAC 1st Team All-Conference; and the second player in Lehigh Vally history to score 1,000 career points.

In her final season, 2017-18, she helped the team advance to the PSUAC Championship, where they were runners up. She earned USCAA 2nd Team All-American, PSUAC 2nd Team All-Conference and PSUAC All-Academic.

Watkins led her team to postseason play each of her four years, including a trip to the PSUAC Championship and USCAA National Championship. She had a win-loss record as player of 70-25. She is Lehigh Valley’s all-time leading scorer with a total of 1,580 points. 

Lorie Khalil, Lehigh Valley's women’s head basketball coach and coordinator of athletic programs, said Watkins is incredibly deserving of the induction into the USCAA Hall of Fame.

“This is an incredible honor, not only for her but for [Penn State Lehigh Valley] athletics and women’s basketball," Khalil siad. "She left her legacy. She deserves this — she was an incredible person to coach. She has great character, a great attitude, was extremely coachable and an all-around great person. She also comes from a great family, and this just couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Watkins said she is humbled and grateful for the honor.

“It means a lot, especially coming from a small college. It was really great just to have that recognition — not just for me, but for all the other athletes from small colleges who thought, ‘No one saw what I did’,” she said. “That’s why the USCAA is great — it was really humbling, and everyone there really cared that you got in. They made everyone feel special.”

Watkins never planned to play basketball in college — she said she just wanted to get her degree. She loved the game too much to give it up, though. She remembered her playing days at Lehigh Valley fondly and has high praise for Khalil.

“She made me into the player I am today," Watkins said. "During my first encounter with her, she said ‘One, you need to be stronger, and two, you’re going to be my point guard.’ She was always straightforward and honest, and pushed me to be the best player I could be. When I wanted to sit back and relax, she wouldn’t let me. She’s a great coach and really cares about her players — I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

Watkins didn’t leave the game behind after she graduated. She came back to help Khalil coach summer camps.

Now, Watkins said she can’t imagine not playing basketball or attending Lehigh Valley.

“Because it’s a small school, I felt at home," she said. "I felt my teachers really cared about me. I was a college athlete but still got the college experience, even though I lived at home. The courses, the projects, the homework — it was all a great experience. The nice thing is you still earn a Penn State degree no matter which campus you go to.”

After graduating from Lehigh Valley with a degree in rehabilitation and human services in 2018, Watkins received her master’s degree in education from DeSales University. She now teaches third grade at Sheridan Elementary School in Allentown. 

“I always loved kids — I worked with them at camps, and being around them, coaching them and seeing how much they care about you is super rewarding," she said. "Basketball influenced my teaching style. To be patient and honest with the kids — I learned that from Coach. I’m always very honest with the kids, and I am a naturally patient person.”

Watkins credited a team of people with helping her throughout her academic and athletic careers.

“I have to give a special shout out to my parents, Heather and Ronn Watkins, who mean the world to me," she said. "They went to every one of my college games and drove in all kinds of weather to get there. They’re the biggest reason all the hard work paid off — they never let me give up. I am honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, coaches, friends and family being there every step of the way.”