While there have surely been worse days in the program’s history, last Wednesday will not go down among the best ones for Boston University. Three players, including star guard Maurice Watson Jr., will all transfer. All of a sudden, the Terriers will have a drastically different look next year and don’t project to be nearly as good. One of them is a bigger loss than the others.
The school announced the transfers of James Kennedy, Malik Thomas and Watson last week. Kennedy, who is one of the nicest young men you could ever meet, has rarely played in his career, having battled injuries. Thomas has had his moments, and his departure will hurt, but it’s Watson’s departure that is both a little mind-boggling and will really hurt.
Make no mistake: BU was already taking a hit with three key seniors graduating in D.J. Irving, Dom Morris and Travis Robinson. All were significant contributors, with Irving being a four-year starter and Morris starting for three and a half years. So even if all three of the transfers stayed, the Terriers might not project as Patriot League favorites next season, especially with a lot of the league’s top talent returning. Bucknell and Lehigh had a lot of young talent this season, and Holy Cross and Army bring back a lot as well. All four teams played better as this season went along.
The Terriers could live without Kennedy and Thomas. Their departures don’t move the needle in terms of next season’s potential. It is Watson’s departure that will sting.
Thomas had some big games where he filled the stat sheet and could have contended for a starting role. But he could also hurt the team with head-scratching plays, too, so for all his potential he has been something of a feast or famine player. Even if he eliminated those as a mature senior, he would probably be a good starter, but not an all-Patriot League player.
Watson, on the other hand, was arguably the best player in the Patriot League this season. He made the Terriers go not only with his scoring and passing, but with his ability to constantly put pressure on opposing defenses. He could also do damage defensively, helping the Terriers speed teams up at times. Watson was seventh in the league in scoring and led the league in assists by more than one a game. In addition, he was a constant; while other players had ups and downs, including in their energy, Watson was a guy you could hang your hat on.
Put Watson on next year’s team and BU has a fighting chance to contend. He would have classmate John Papale, who can shoot, and Wagner transfer Eric Fanning alongside him on the perimeter. Cedric Hankerson, who showed plenty of promise as a freshman in a limited role, also figures to be in the mix and now may be looking at a more prominent role than originally expected. Nathan Dieudonne would be the primary player up front, and while he’s not an all-league candidate he’s a very capable player who has developed nicely in two seasons thus far on Commonwealth Ave. SMU transfer Blaise Mbargorba will help there, along with emerging reserve Justin Alston.
Certainly, with that group, the Terriers wouldn’t fall far; a top-half finish would be expected. Take Watson away, however, and the Terriers are primed to drop appreciably. They shouldn’t fall all the way to the bottom by a long shot, but this loss hurts. There isn’t a proven alternative at the point on the current roster, so someone will have to emerge at the most important position on the floor.
Although the Terriers fell short of an NCAA Tournament bid, at first glance they appeared to be in good shape for next season. Now, they have a lot less coming back, and they have taken a big hit at the point guard spot. BU won’t be rebuilding next year, but the team’s ceiling has taken a pretty big hit with Watson’s departure.