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Transfers J.D. Weatherspoon and Justin Drummond ready to shine as Toledo Rockets

On October 8, 2013

As the University of Toledo men’s basketball team readies itself for a new season, junior guard Justin Drummond and junior forward J.D. Weatherspoon admit the offseason has been a very long one. Both players are transfer students who were forced to redshirt last season due to NCAA regulations. Neither has played in a game as a Rocket — a fact you definitely don’t need to remind them about. “It most definitely is a hard experience just knowing that you [can’t] help your team out and win games,” Weatherspoon said. “Me and Drummond were able to practice but at the same time we weren’t able to be in the game and that was frustrating for both of us. We knew we just had to wait our turn and work on our weaknesses for next year.” The redshirt process is one most fans of college sports have heard of, but that few fully grasp. For the players who participate, it means a second chance to play the sports they love — but the price is a year of their eligibility. “You are used to playing,” Drummond explained. “You play two years and then you don’t play for a year and that year seems like forever, because you’re always used to playing. I didn’t really look at the negatives, I just focused on the positives — coming here and getting better and not trying to waste any days.  “A lot of guys don’t get the opportunity to get better and keep their eligibility, so it was definitely a blessing in disguise for me and I took total advantage of it and have gotten better.” With a quick glance at each of these players’ past college ball experiences, it’s easy to find yourself wondering how they ended up in Toledo. Weatherspoon, a native of Columbus, Ohio, spent two years at Ohio State, playing in 25 games during his sophomore year and helping the Buckeyes make it to the Final Four. “It was a bigger environment of course, coming from Ohio State,” Weatherspoon said. “But at the same time it is still great support here and great people and that is what it is all about.” Drummond also played two years at his former college, Loyola , before coming to Toledo. During his second season he was named the MAAC Sixth Player of the Year, and he and the Greyhounds won the MAAC Championship. “I just wanted a new feel,” Drummond said. “Toledo showed me a lot of love. This arena here and these facilities here and the support they had here is something that I didn’t know mid-major schools had, so when I came here it was like a perfect environment.” Like Weatherspoon at OSU, Drummond and the Greyhounds also went to the NCAA tournament during his sophomore season. It was actually Weatherspoon’s Buckeyes who cut their trip short, defeating Loyola 78-59 in the first round. “We played them and unfortunately they won because they had [Jared] Sullinger and we couldn’t stop him,” Drummond said. “But yeah, me and J.D. played each other. I didn’t know he was going to try to come here at first but I saw him and shook hands and when I found out he was going to come here we clicked really quick.” Both players also clicked quickly with the rest of the men on the roster, something that head coach Tod Kowalczyk attributes to their overall personalities.  “I wanted guys that are going to add value to our chemistry, add value to our basketball culture,” he said. “They are both very likeable guys, great locker room guys. I am just very proud of how far both guys have come. “We do our homework. We make sure that they are our kind of guys, our kind of students and people that will represent our institution the right way.” Each athlete brings different things to the table for Toledo. Weatherspoon, at 6-6, 215 pounds, is expected to be an impressive rebounding presence for the Rockets, while Drummond, 6-4, 187, is an all-around scorer.  Due to the two players’ previous experiences on the court, as well as Toledo’s offseason trip to Greece for a series of exhibition games, Drummond and Weatherspoon have acquired a fresh perspective on their own abilities, as well as those of each other. “Drummond brings another offensive threat,” Weatherspoon explained. “He can shoot that midrange real good and he is working on his three ball as well. Drummond can also drive and penetrate real well. His only weakness is post passing, but me being a good post passer I can help him out. Other than that, he is coming along real well.” It is Weatherspoon’s athleticism that Drummond sees as the true threat to be utilized by the Rockets.  “J.D. is a freak athlete,” he explained. “He has God’s gift as far as athleticism. J.D. is a hell of a player, great inside game; he is very bouncy and he is an athletic freak. We think he is going to be a great asset.” The Rockets and Kowalczyk hope to utilize both players’ skills this upcoming season, as they attempt to make a run at the Mid-American Conference Championship. And while the redshirt year was a long one for both Drummond and Weatherspoon, their new coach sees the period as time well spent. “When you redshirt someone after they have played college ball, I think it is even more beneficial because they have been through it,” Kowalczyk said. “They’ve been through a season; they know what it takes and how hard you need to play.” 

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