With the game over and most of Conte Forum emptied out, the ESPN crew had Justin Drummond brought back out for the postgame interview. Walking out of the tunnel once again, the Toledo junior couldn't contain his happiness. He threw both of his hands in the air, striking the celebratory touchdown pose.
This was, after all, the first real game he had played in over a year.
After sitting out the 2012-13 season after transferring from Loyola (Md.), Drummond had a strong showing in the Toledo Rockets opener against Northwest Ohio scoring 14 points in 21 minutes, but a 102-55 win isn't exactly representative of competitive collegiate basketball. No, that reintroduction was reserved for Thursday night in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Drummond started and played 25 key minutes for Toledo as they battled back to erase an eight-point deficit in the last four minutes to score a 95-92 win and improve to 2-0. His 20 points were second on the team to Julius Brown, but it was the way he scored them that made the difference in the game. Drummond got into the paint time and again, either scoring in traffic or getting himself to the free throw line where he was a perfect 7-for-7.
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"That year [off] went by fast, but there's nothing like taking the year off so I'm very excited to be back," Drummond said. "This was a great to start it off, beating an ACC team on the road. We couldn't ask for anything better."
At Loyola, Drummond was supposed to redshirt but that was burned after nine games and his play over the rest of the season was enough to land him on the All-MAAC Rookie team. He followed that season up by landing on the All-MAAC third team, earning MAAC Sixth Player of the Year, and winning a MAAC Championship. The move to Toledo was a change in scenery and an improvement in competition, despite losing one of the "A's" in the conference name.
Known more for his driving ability, it was actually a three-pointer that might have had the biggest impact on the game. Coming out of a timeout with 3:16 to play and trailing 84-73, Brown drove the lane and found a wide-open Drummond in the deep corner and the junior made no mistakes, burying the three and closing the gap to six.
"Juice is a great driver, he was distributing the ball excellently and he found me and I just focused in and made it," Drummond said. When asked if that was the design, he and coach Ted Kowalczyk shared a laugh before saying that while it wasn't the design, they may as well say it was.
The plan or not, Drummond seems to have found a safe landing place with the Rockets.