There’s apparently no messing with the formula at Texas Southern.
On Tuesday, former Oklahoma State guard Michael Weathers announced that he was committing to the Tigers, adding a well-traveled and proven scorer to Johnny Jones’ team. It’s been an eventful few years for Weathers, who was the MAC Freshman of the Year at Miami (Ohio) in 2017, was dismissed from Oklahoma State in January after multiple legal issues and then committed and decommitted from Nicholls earlier this year.
It’s a familiar type of signing for the SWAC juggernaut, which has made its name on high upside players and those seeking redemption or, in Weathers’ case, both. That recruiting success has also now spanned two coaches, with Mike Davis originally planting his flag at TSU with those type of players.
The trend started with Aaric Murray, who remains arguably the most high profile of a string of talented players to play for the Tigers. The big man had been dismissed from both La Salle and West Virginia whenhe joined TSU as a graduate transfer in 2013. Murray talked about the fresh start at his third school at the time.
“I am very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to be mentored by Coach John Lucas, while I attend Texas Southern University. Although, this is not the road I expected to take, this journey will undoubtedly support my goals long term.
“I also feel that being mentored by Coach Lucas and Coach Mike Davis will support my mission to be the best Aaric Murray I can be.
”Publicly, there are tons of expectations of what I should be. This however is the best opportunity I have in efforts of reaching my full potential. In addition anything that can be done in college basketball can be done at Texas Southern.”
On the court, it couldn’t have worked out any better, as Murray was a dominant force in his lone year in Houston (21.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG) and helped lead the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament. That season included a 48-point effort at Temple, as the Philadelphia returned home to help grab a big non-conference upset.
After Murray, Davis nabbed Deverelle Biggs — who had been dismissed at Nebraska — and one-time five star prospect Chris Thomas. Thomas had spent time in Junior College before waffling between multiple Division I schools and eventually landing at Marshall, where he was dismissed for violating team rules. Biggs and Thomas played key roles for a Tigers team that went 16-2 in the SWAC in 2014-15, and earned another trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The high upside talent continued to roll in the years that followed, including well-traveled Zach Lofton, who won the SWAC Player of the Year award before moving on to New Mexico State, and giant center Trayvon Reed, who started his career at Auburn. There was also Demontrae Jefferson, a 5’7 lightning bolt of a guard who saw interest in him wane in high school, reportedly over concerns with his attitude.
“I’ve always been looked over because of my height, and people might have taken some of what I did the wrong way,” Jefferson said. “They said I had an ego and I had an attitude. That wasn’t it. I always play with emotion.”
Davis took a chance, and Jefferson gave him two electric seasons (18.7 PPG) and two NCAA Tournament bids before leaving the program when Davis moved on to Detroit following the 2017-18 season. And as an interesting epilogue to his time in Houston, Jefferson has not played college basketball since.
With a new coach, TSU has gone to the high upside, redemption-seeking well yet again. This time the headliner is Weathers, whose freshman season speaks for itself (16.7 PPG, 4.8 APG) and who held his own in 16 games for the Cowboys last year (20.5 MPG, 9.2 PPG). In addition to being a volume scorer in his lone season in the MAC, he was also an elite playmaker, finishing with the fifth best assist rate (40.7%) in the country. Assuming good health and no additional off-the-court incidents, the Tigers should expect that type of game-altering production to resume in the SWAC.
It’s taken a unique situation for TSU to continue landing that type of impact player across the sea change of a new coach. SWAC schools can’t usually claim the type of high major experience the Tigers’ past two coaches have had, and beyond that, the colorful feathers in their respective caps. Davis plied the sidelines during a national championship game and Jones has a number one NBA draft pick to his credit, both of which must play well in recruiting, especially players coming from the higher reaches of college basketball.
As long as that plan remains in place at TSU, the Tigers will remain the SWAC’s heavy favorite.