Four more players will not return to the University of Toledo men's basketball team next season, newly hired coach Tod Kowalczyk announced yesterday.
Sophomore point guard Larry Bastfield, sophomore center Ian Salter, and freshman guards Josh Freelove and Neil Watson have been released from their scholarships, effective at the end of the spring semester, and are free to transfer to another program.
"This isn't about commitment to the program but mostly about commitment to academics," Kowalczyk said.
Because of federal privacy laws, Kowalczyk could not specify which players from the group were struggling academically.
"We came to the decision that this was in their best interest for them to look elsewhere and in the best interest for the future of our program," Kowalczyk said.
Bastfield started all 32 games for the Rockets last season, averaging 3.8 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game. He also averaged 2.5 turnovers per game and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.31, which ranked 11th in the Mid-American Conference.
Salter also played in 32 games, making six starts. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Freelove appeared in 28 games and averaged 4.3 points per game.
Watson sat out last season as a redshirt.
Salter was quoted by UT's student newspaper, the Independent Collegian, in yesterday's edition that he had "no idea" where he was headed next and that he "wanted to stay" at UT.
"I'll let you figure out why I won't be back because I don't think I should comment on it," Salter said.
Only five scholarship players now remain on the team after freshman guard Jake Barnett and freshman forward Jordan Dressler decided to leave the program last week shortly after Kowalczyk was named head coach.
In regard to his plan for rebuilding the team's personnel for next season, Kowalczyk said he wouldn't sign players just for the sake of signing players.
"We are not going to just fill roster spots," Kowalczyk said. "We are only going to take guys that are committed to academics, that are committed to being a part of the Toledo community, and want to be part of a successful basketball program. Obviously, with that being said, they need to be talented basketball players. We're not going to miss on evaluations at this point in time of the year. We're not going to just take somebody that we think has a chance to be good enough. We're only going to take guys that we know are going to be good enough."
And if Kowalczyk doesn't utilize all his scholarships, that's OK by him.
"If we have open spots, so be it," Kowalczyk said. "We'll use them in the future."
Kowalczyk has already been very active on the recruiting trails, however.
Ryan Majerle, a junior at Rockford High School in Michigan and the nephew of former NBA all-star Dan Majerle, made a visit to UT's campus yesterday, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation.
The Rockets have extended a scholarship offer to Start's Anthony Henderson, who is drawing strong interest from Bowling Green, Ball State, and Miami, and are said to be recruiting 7-foot center Alec Brown from Winona, Wis., and 6-4 shooting guard Reese Holliday from Kansas City.
Kowalczyk is not allowed to comment on recruits until they sign a national letter of intent. The spring signing period begins April 14.