This upcoming season may be the most competitive and intriguing season among the non-power five DI NCAA Basketball teams that reside in the state of Michigan. There is a sense of excitement and hope for schools that usually are in the shadows of the Michigan State and the University of Michigan basketball programs. Four players look to lead the way as all four can have very positive impacts on their programs this season.
Each of the four players has their own stories and reasons for why they want to have an outstanding year for themselves and the teams they individually represent this upcoming season. They are motivated and determined to do well on the basketball court this season and their stories start with a former Spartan who returned to his home state after playing a season in Mississippi.
Rocket Watts–Oakland University
He started playing high school basketball at Old Redford Academy in Detroit before transferring out of state and attending Spire Academy for his senior season in the state of Ohio. He then played and had success in his freshman season at Michigan State where he was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team. During that season, he produced 18 or more points in four of the last seven games of the season for the Spartans which was highlighted by his two 21-point performances on the road against Illinois and at home against Iowa.
During his sophomore season in East Lansing, he played well early scoring 20 points on the road against Duke helping the Spartans defeat the Blue Devils, and a season-high 23 points against Detroit Mercy at home. However, he struggled throughout the season only scoring three or fewer points six times but he did score 21 points helping the Spartans defeat No. 2 ranked Michigan on Senior Day. Watts, however, decided to transfer at the end of the season.
He transferred to Mississippi State in late May that off-season and before the following upcoming season, he had an off-season surgical procedure due to a hip injury. Once the season began as a member of the Mississippi State basketball team, he only played 19 games due in part to COVID-19 protocols in late January and played his last game on Feb. 12 due to an elbow injury.
His best overall game was when he scored 11 points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal in a home victory against South Carolina. He averaged a season-low 4.4 points a game for the Bulldogs and entered the transfer portal shortly after Ben Howland was relieved of his duties as the head coach of Mississippi State.
Watts after playing at Michigan State and Mississippi State could have transferred to another power five conference school but he decided to come back to the state of Michigan and play for a mid-major program. He now as a member of the Oakland Grizzlies basketball program is absolutely certain to get a ton of playing time and if he gets a transfer waver as he already used his one-time transfer exception when he transferred from Michigan State to Mississippi State, he could contend for the Horizon League conference player of the year along with teammate Jalen Moore and Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis.
It is a feel-good story of Watts coming home to the state of Michigan and playing for Greg Kampe and his Oakland University program. He can do very well playing in the Horizon League and he will have ample opportunities to thrive in the Golden Grizzlies’ offense. Watts coming home should be great for him and he can average 20 plus points a game for Kampe and his team from him and also lead Oakland to a conference championship.
Read more about him transferring to Oakland here: In-Depth Look