The Rocket Watts era of Michigan State basketball appears to be coming to a close.
Watts, a Detroit native who was a top-30 national recruit when Michigan State landed him for the 2019 recruiting class, entered the transfer portal Monday.
It’s the first significant departure on the Michigan State roster front since the season ended in an NCAA Tournament First Four loss to UCLA.
In the last week, Michigan State got a commitment from Northeastern transfer point guard Tyson Walker, a major get for coach Tom Izzo, who has decried the transfer-happy era but knows he must get on board.
Watts played high school ball at Old Redford Academy, averaging 26.8 points as a junior, before transferring to SPIRE Academy in Ohio, where he once scored 64 in a game on 15 3-pointers, for his senior season. Watts’ first season at Michigan State, made the Big Ten’s all-freshman team, averaging 9.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He played 27 games, starting 16.
But Watts took a step back this season, averaging 7.7 points as Michigan State struggled to find consistent point guard play. He was moved from the point to shooting guard in January.
The season started in promising fashion, with a 20-point showing in a win at Duke, then 23 in a home win over Detroit Mercy. But he only scored in double figures three more times until a 21-point game in the win over Michigan. Twice during Big Ten play, he scored zero points; once he scored two; and twice he scored three, including Feb. 13 at Iowa, when he was sick at halftime and was quarantined for the second half out of precaution.
Inconsistency on offense, starting at the point, was a major source of frustration for Michigan State (15-13). Is streak of NCAA Tournament appearances looked like it would end at 22 until the Spartans rallied to beat Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana twice in the final two weeks.
Michigan State then lost to UCLA, 86-80, in overtime in a First Four game. UCLA remains alive, and will play Michigan in the Elite Eight on Tuesday.
Watts was a three-time Associated Press all-state first-team selection in high school, and ESPN ranked him the No. 27 prospect in the 2019 recruiting class.
He has three years of eligibility left, with this past season being a “free” year because of NCAA COVID-19 alterations. Watson is likely to be able to play immediately at his next stop, with the NCAA preparing to extend the no-sit waiver for next season, and make that rule permanent for the following season.
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