The spotlight will be on Texas Southern this season. Having a player like Derrick Griffin ensures as much.
The SWAC’s best shot at an NBA player since Lindsey Hunter is poised not only to rack up league awards, but also lead the Tigers to their third NCAA appearance under Mike Davis. As talented as Griffin is, he won’t be able to do it alone and according to his coach, he won’t have to.
“We’ve got some special players, our guards are going to be really good,” Davis said in a phone interview earlier this summer. “This is the deepest guard group I’ve had.”
We know that group won’t include All-SWAC first teamer Chris Thomas, who ran out of eligibility after an excellent senior year (15.1 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game).
Thomas took a winding road to Texas Southern. He committed to Xavier in 2012 but never made it to Cincinnati. Instead he ended up in junior college for a year and then spent 2013-14 at Marshall before transferring to Texas Southern and becoming an all-conference player.
Davis’s “deep” guard group will instead rely on two players trying to write similar redemption stories.
One of those guards is 5-9 Dulani Robinson, who played consistent minutes (25.1 minutes per game) for Pacific in 2014-15 and was second on the team in scoring (9.1 points per game).
“Dulani is an explosive combo guard that will be able to play both the 1 and 2 positions for the [Pacific] Tigers. He's an excellent three-point shooter and should bring plenty of fire and energy to our program,” then-Pacific coach Ron Verlin said in a release when Robinson committed.
Robinson did show flashes of potential at Pacific, including a 26-point effort against Colorado State, in which he hit seven three pointers. Although he shot just 34.3 percent on 134 three-point attempts in his lone D-I season, his long range potential is a big addition to a Texas Southern team that shot just 33.8 percent from three last year.
Zach Lofton, who was a key contributor as a sophomore at Illinois State in 2013-14 (23.0 mpg, 11.3 ppg), joins him in the backcourt. Lofton transferred to Minnesota but was dismissed from the team in 2015 before ever suiting up for the Golden Gophers. He should give Davis a high-major talent that can help take the pressure off of Griffin.
Since he’s been at Texas Southern, Davis has not shied away from taking on players trying to make good on a second (or third) chance. Griffin himself is one of those players after a non-start as a football player at Miami.
Robinson and Lofton are two more players in that mold, and between them have spent time at two junior colleges and three D-I programs before getting to Houston. This is likely their final chance, and if it works out for them like it did for Thomas, it could be a special season for the Tigers.