Boston University point guard Maurice Watson, Jr., announced Wednesday that he plans to transfer from BU. One of only two underclassmen on the first All-Patriot League team this year, Watson would have been a Player of the Year frontrunner for each of his final two seasons in the league. The speedy penetrator set up everyone in the Terriers’ offense with the nation’s second-best assist rate (he assisted 50% of teammates’ baskets when on the floor), including a Division I-best 17 dimes in the Patriot League tournament semifinals.
Watson’s motivation is obvious — he has clear major-conference talent, if not major-conference size. The ideal team for Watson would play up-tempo and let its point guard initiate everything on offense (it’s an easy comparison several have already made, but could he be the heir to Chaz Williams, a different type of undersized lead guard, at UMass?) , and Watson’s quick hands led to a top-30 steal rate this season, helping hide his lack of size.
“He had a wonderful career playing in the Patriot League, playing in the America East,” Watson’s father, Maurice Watson, Sr., told City of Basketball Love. But we feel now that he needs to take his basketball ability and play on a bigger stage.”
Without Watson, the Terriers will be completely different in 2014-15. Things would have certainly been different with the graduation of seniors D.J. Irving and Dom Morris, but Watson, surrounded by a solid set of shooters and two eligible transfers, would have still made BU a title contender. Now, not only will the Terriers be without Watson, but they’ll be without redshirt junior Malik Thomas and redshirt sophomore James Kennedy — whose transfers were reported shortly after Watson’s — it’s hard to see BU’s second season in the Patriot League being as successful as its first.
Assuming no more roster changes before next fall, the Terriers will return only 30% of this year’s possession minutes (combining playing time and usage), by far the lowest in the Patriot League:
Teams listed in order of 2013-14 finish. Includes effect of BU transfers; I’m not aware of any other confirmed departures.
The transfer wheel won’t entirely work against the Terriers — sophomores Blaise Mbargorba (from SMU) and Eric Fanning (from Wagner) will be eligible for BU next season — but there are a lot of holes to fill. For context, every Patriot League team last season returned at least 40% of its possession minutes. (Of course, the optimistic view is that the most turnover last year belonged to American, which defied expectations to improve from 10-20 to 20-13 and an NCAA tournament bid.)
From an off-the-court perspective, do these transfers reflect poorly on coach Joe Jones or the BU program? I doubt it. Watson’s departure is a clear case of up-transferring, which has become much more common in the last 2-3 years; his Tweets seemed genuinely grateful for his experience at BU. The departures of Thomas (a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility left) and Kennedy (reportedly in search of playing time) won’t likely seek the same heights, but remember that players stuck with BU and Jones through the 2012-13 season, in which they were ineligible for the America East autobid and could have transferred without sitting a year.