If there’s one positive that came out of Michigan State men's basketball's blowout loss to Purdue on Jan. 12, it was freshman guard Rocket Watts.
As the rest of MSU’s squad couldn’t seem to make a shot, Watts had one of his best shooting nights of the season, going 4-for-6 overall and tying with senior guard Cassius Winston for a team-high 10 points.
Watts started the season in the Spartans' constantly evolving starting line-up. He stayed there until a stress reaction put him out for four games in December and sophomore forward Gabe Brown took his place.
Watts shot 27.4% over his eight games in the starting lineup, but since being taken out he’s almost doubled his shooting percentage to an exact 50% in the last five games.
“It wasn’t ever pressure (with starting) I just wasn’t letting the game come to me,” Watts said regarding the difference between his shooting compared to earlier in the season. “I was kind of forcing everything, taking bad shots so now I’ve just calmed down and (I'm) letting the game come to me.”
Valued as the 39th best recruit of the 2019 class and the seventh-best combo guard, Watts carried high expectations coming to Michigan State. The freshman was known for his shooting abilities in high school, tallying 64 points on 15 three-pointers in one game, but in his early collegiate showings he struggled to bring this same energy back.
The six foot, three inch Detroit native had a rocky shooting start early on, but as of late, he has shown an improving basketball IQ, which he attributes to growing comfort on the collegiate court.
“Just going out there and having confidence,” Watts said. “Taking good shots and picking my defense subject to carry out in the offensive range.”
Part of that comfort started against Michigan on Jan. 5 when Watts went 3-for-4 overall and 2-for-3 from the three-point line, focusing on the consistency of his shots rather than the amount he took.
“I was really happy for Rocket Watts to make a couple shots,” coach Tom Izzo said following that win. “He’s been working hard at it when we had this break and I told him at the end 'it’s kind of funny how things work out when you work on them.'”
After his recent performances, Watts will most likely see more minutes and have more opportunities to improve his shooting consistency as MSU hosts Wisconsin on Jan. 17. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.