I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in the worst press accommodations possible at the TD Garden in Boston preparing for UMass and Boston College, I was taken by this little point guard with dual arm sleeves that was torching Northeastern. He was quick, could shoot, and his decision making was impeccable. Down the stretch he made play after play, nailing a layup with 45 seconds left that kept NU at arm's length. A few free throws and the game was over, Boston University Terriers leaving with the win.
Mo Watson Jr. was officially on my radar. Then he was on everyone's radar. Now, major programs looking for a playmaker have him their radar as Watson announced on Wednesday that he would be transferring from the program.
"I think the big thing is we love Mo," said Jones, when reached today. "He had a tremendous impact on the program. We loved him.We just want the best for him. I think it would be great to have him stay. We would love for him to stay.
"But we also want what is best for him," Jones said after granting Watson's release.
According to the story, the sophomore point guard wants to play at a higher level, on a bigger stage. Watson averaged 13.4 points and 7.1 assists per game last season, leading the Terriers to a regular season Patriot League title, the conference tournament game, and an NIT bid. His assist rate of 49.9 was second in the country behind LIU Brooklyn's Jason Brickman, per KenPom.com.
As one of the best pure point guards in the country, Watson should be in high demand among the programs he is targeting. Although a highly regarded high-school recruit - he was the No. 92 player in the class of 2012 per ESPN - Watson didn't have the loftiest of offers. Princeton, Cornell, and Texas Tech were among his suitors, but it's unlikely those schools factor into his next decision.
My early favorites for his commitment would be any of the schools in his native Philadelphia. La Salle, Temple, St. Joseph's and Villanova all play on a higher plane than the Patriot League and, with the possible exception of Villanova, could be in the market for a point guard two years down the road.
This transfer was inevitable, however. The bottom line of the scouting report on Watson reads "Elite student who has Ivy league grades but a game slightly higher. Will be a mid-major fit for a coach who values IQ and speed and doesn't mind the lack of size." Now that he has demonstrated that his talent level is commensurate with a higher level of play, he can move on to the schools that probably should have been recruiting him in the first place.
That is where everything stops making sense, though. Also named in the report as players transferring from the program are forwards Malik Thomas and James Kennedy. Thomas will graduate early and seek immediate playing time, while Kennedy will follow normal transfer rules in pursuit of on-court opportunities.
Thomas averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last year off the bench and was a major part of Jones' rotation. He likely would have seen an uptick in production next year, making his decision to transfer especially confusing. Couple it with Watson's departure, and it makes you wonder if something else is going down on Commonwealth Avenue.
Jones has only been talked about in regards to Boston College's job opening - one that seems to be closing with Jones not involved - but this exodus of talent makes me wonder if he has something in the works that would lead to players leaving a solid program with a likable coach. Where that job would be, or if it even exists, is pure speculation, but when three players leave a team that will be defending a conference championship, red flags arise.
BU will have plenty of talent coming back next year, namely starters John Papale and Nathan Dieudonne and reserves Travis Robinson and Cedric Hankerson. But the losses of Watson, Thomas, and possibly Jones would make repeating in the competitive and unpredictable Patriot League a daunting task.