I hope Toledo's still glowing over that WNIT victory and Tricia Cullop extension, because the news on the XY-chromosome side of basketball isn't all that rosy. Rockets' guards Malcolm Griffin and J.T. Thomas are both gonna transfer to another program this summer, per the Toledo Blade.
This is quite devastating to the Rocket's chances of going .500 in the conference, especially since Griffin was, as coach Tod Kowalczyk once said to start last season, "their only playmaker." He's right. Nobody else can create their own shot on that team.
Whoever lands him will have a proven scorer. Griffin was able to change speeds off the dribble and disrupt the rhythm of his defender. His shots would often find a way to softly bounce off the rim and in, and for many games he was expected to carry the team, as noted by taking 31.5% of the team's shots and doing so with an eFG of 51.7%. As a result his total output was 12 points, 4 assists and 4 turnovers per game.
Griffin was a Gene Cross carryover, so it's possible that him and Kowalczyk just never clicked. Housecleaning is part of the rebuilding process. Meanwhile, Thomas was a thin reserve guard who didn't have much time to develop as a player either, plus he was twice injured during the year, so his 4.5 points/2.1 turnovers per game don't look all that hefty.
But this is their second "best player" who transferred out of the blue; you may remember Jake Barnett, now with Saint Louis, who left UT as a freshman captain/leading scorer the same month Kowalczyk was hired. Again: housecleaning.
Now, when Kowalczyk said Griffin was their only playmaker, he wasn't including any of the four transfers eligible to play next year. I'm looking at Dominique Buckley, the junior from Iowa State, as a possible successor to Griffin as the main ball-handler. The ol' coach may also trust Rian Pearson, who he "brought" with him from UW-Green Bay, to create some shots.
There's just so much metric tonnage of uncertainly surrounding the Rockets team next year. Are they eyeing another last-place season? If so, I just can't go to their games anymore. If I want to make the drive from Ypsilanti to watch any grade of basketball, I'll go to Eastern games.