After a challenging season, roster attrition was expected for the Michigan State Spartans basketball program this offseason. According to reports from MLive’s Kyle Austin, among others, guard Mark “Rocket” Watts has entered his name into the transfer portal.
Michigan State guard Rocket Watts is in the transfer portal, likely ending his two-year career with the Spartans— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) March 29, 2021
Watts becomes the second player to transfer out of the Michigan State program this offseason, joining fellow guard Jack Hoiberg. We never like to see a player go, but Watts felt this was what is best for him moving forward.
Michigan State also added Northeastern transfer point guard Tyson Walker over the weekend.
Watts, who just finished his sophomore year, really struggled this past season. After a promising freshman season, in which Watts finished strong down the stretch, his numbers took a dip nearly across the board in the 2020-2021 season. Watts went from averaging 9.0 points per game as a freshman, to 7.7 points per game as a sophomore.
His assist numbers did go up from 1.7 per game to 2.7 per contest, but his field goal percentage went from 38.9 percent last year to 33.6 percent this year, including his three-point field goal percentage dipping from 28.1 percent to 25.3 percent. His free-throw percentage also dropped two percentage points, while his rebounding numbers went from 2.3 per game as a freshman to 1.7 per game as a sophomore. Additionally, his steals were down and his turnovers were up.
Tom Izzo and the staff experimented with Watts at the point guard position this past season, and it never seemed to be a natural fit. The Spartans struggled to find somebody to run the offense at the point guard spot all season long, and Watts seemed to play better as an off-ball guard, for the most part. In addition to his offensive woes, Watts had issues on the defensive side of the ball as well.
While Watts did struggle overall in the 2020-2021 campaign, the Detroit native put together great performances against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, at home against Detroit Mercy and in the home meeting against Michigan to close out the regular season.
Keep in mind, just because a player enters their name in the portal, it does not automatically mean that player is leaving. However, it would be surprising to see Watts come back to East Lansing.
We wish you the best in all future endeavors, Rocket!
Update: Rocket Watts has since confirmed the news himself.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo also made a statement regarding Watts’ decision to transfer:
Coach Izzo on Rocket Watts: pic.twitter.com/OvludVFSMZ— Michigan State Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) March 29, 2021
“The way we live our lives and how we operate were drastically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year. Even under normal circumstances, making a change like we did this year with Rocket would have been challenging.
In preparation for last season, we had asked Rocket to take on a new role. It’s the type of position change where a spring, summer and fall of practice would have been extremely beneficial for him. Unfortunately, the pandemic created circumstances beyond anyone’s control. As a result, he didn’t get the necessary practice time, which put him in a difficult and challenging situation.
After several discussions over the past week, we mutually agreed that he may benefit from a fresh start elsewhere and is putting his name in the transfer portal. Rocket has made progress in all facets of his life, especially making tremendous strides academically. We appreciate the contributions he’s made over the last two years and wish Rocket nothing but the best in his future. He’ll always be part of the Spartan Family.”