Jacqueline Williams-Battle cried.
She couldn’t help herself, but tears flowed uncontrollably down her face as she watched her son RaeQuan Battle take over the first half of Washington’s 64-56 win over Oregon State on Thursday night.
“It kind of hit me in a flash like everything that we worked on is paying off,” Williams-Battle said. “People are around us, we’re like, ‘Wow. Look at his shot.’ And I listened to the student body talk and they were saying, ‘Omigosh RaeQuan is amazing.’ ”
Even when Battle is by himself, he’s never alone.
The former Marysville-Pilchuck High star, who grew up on the Tulalip Reservation and is believed to be the first from the Tulalip Tribe to receive a Division I basketball scholarship, receives the full support and love from his tight-knit Native American community.
After scoring a career-high 11 points and draining three three-pointers in his first start, Battle gave credit to the person who put him on the path from the reservation to Montlake.
“If I’m being real, that’s my mom’s shot,” said the 6-foot-5 freshman forward when asked about his long-distance daggers that captivated the Alaska Airlines Arena crowd. “I learned it from her.”
Battle not only got his jump shot from his mother, but also the No. 21 that he wears.
“My all-time favorite player is Dominique Wilkins, but honestly I was more like a Jamal Crawford type,” said Williams-Battle, a 1992 Marysville-Pilchuck graduate who garnered the nickname “Sparkplug” as a 5-3 sharpshooter during her two years on the varsity team. “I never started, always came off the bench, but I could shoot.
“My dad coached baseball so I was always around sports. I had seven brothers and three sisters, but I couldn’t stand playing with the girls and always wanted to play pickup with boys.”
Williams-Battle, a single mother who raised five boys and a niece, introduced RaeQuan, her middle son, to basketball when he was in the third grade.
At the time, he was interested in football and baseball, but after capturing high-scoring honors and the MVP award at a basketball tournament in Lummi, Battle was hooked on hoops.
“We used to go to the (Tulalip Boys & Girls Club) gym when nobody was there and I would have him shoot from every spot on the floor,” Williams-Battle said. “And then at his games, if he missed a foul shot he had to do five pushups. If he missed a lay-in that was 10 pushups.
“There were times he would be like, ‘Did you see how many points I scored?’ And I would say, ‘No. But I counted how many shots you missed.’ He didn’t like it, but he would go do his pushups.”
Due to the limited resources on the reservation, Williams-Battle trained her son early in his basketball career and began developing his flawless jump shot.
“I used to push him around and I told him you need to be squared up when shooting fadeaways,” she said. “I would tell him you’ve got to get your shot off fast. You’ve got to snap the ball because somebody is going to run up on you and contest your shot. And don’t think about it either. Just shoot.”
Coach Mike Hopkins said Battle is arguably the best shooter at Washington and his freakish athletic ability rivals Husky high-flyer Nahziah Carter.
And yet, Battle had been buried on the bench and had tallied just eight points on 3-for-12 shooting before Thursday’s breakout performance.
“It hurt, hearing ‘stay ready, stay ready’ and not playing,” Battle admitted. “But I just have to trust my coaches and trust my teammates to get me there. I trusted them, my time came. I play this game every day, so it’s just natural.”
Hopkins intimated Battle needed to learn UW’s 2-3 zone defense early in the season and acknowledged the Huskies’ recent need for perimeter scoring since losing point guard Quade Green, who is academically ineligible.
And Battle got his big break while filling in for Jaden McDaniels, who tweaked his ankle last week and was held out of the Oregon State game.
McDaniels is expected to return when Washington (12-6, 2-3 Pac-12) hosts No. 8 Oregon (14-4, 3-2) at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, which likely means a return to the bench for Battle.
Still, the Huskies have seemingly discovered a dynamic perimeter threat who is capable of igniting an offense that ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in three-point shooting (32.3%) and 10th in scoring (71.2 points per game).
“He has that amazing shooter’s — not only shooter’s mechanics and feels, but he’s got the shooter’s mind,” Hopkins said about Battle. “He is an incredible talent. To be able to do what he did (Thursday), that’s pretty special. It was a big difference in the game.
“The thing that I love most about him is he just plays and competes. He has ultra confidence and that’s very rare these days.”