When Nathan Boothe is setting screens and draining jumpers from 12 feet away, folks see why coach Tod Kowalczyk brought in the freshman to fortify the University of Toledo’s front court.
When Boothe is sitting on the bench, a frequent spot for him this season because of foul trouble, they see a bleak picture reminiscent of last year.
No one is pleading for Boothe, who by all accounts has played up to expectations, to give more. Only to play more.
“It affects us offensively more than anything,” Kowalczyk said Tuesday on the eve of Toledo’s long-awaited home opener. “Obviously, with Nate in there we have a very good low post scorer. We have to do a better job of staying out of foul trouble.”
If the 6-foot-9 suburban Chicago product holds the key to a successful season, he needs figure out a way to stop sitting on it. He has picked up at least four personal fouls in all five games of UT’s 1-4 start, averaging eight fewer minutes than the 30 expected. Boothe played just 41 minutes total last week in Fort Myers, Fla. where the Rockets beat Samford before squandering a 10-point halftime in a 72-66 loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
Assistant coach Jason Kalsow put together a video of every foul Boothe has committed, which after analyzing Boothe surmises, “It’s mainly those stupid fouls that I know I shouldn’t be doing but I do anyway.”
Minus Boothe, who is averaging 7.8 points and 5.0 rebounds entering today’s meeting with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Rockets have been forced to play 4-on-5 at the offensive end. Boothe’s back ups — Richard Wonnell, Delino Dear, and James Ewing — have scored a combined one point in 82 minutes.
It comes as no surprise that the night Boothe logged his most minutes he produced his highest output. Staying out of foul trouble until the final stretch at Minnesota, he contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and a blocked shot in 27 minutes — only three shy of fulfilling Kowalczyk’s plan. Sandwiched between the Minnesota game were two quick fouls at both Loyola and at Northern Iowa. Boothe, who is converting 45 percent of his shots from the field and 77 percent from the line, fouled out in overtime at Northern Iowa.
Kowalczyk breaks down the fouls into three categories: The forgivable ones that are result of aggressive play, the unforgivable ones of which Kalsow is helping Boothe purge, and those iffy calls that come on the road.
“You lose one of your best low post scorers, and you lose probably your best screener,” Kowalczyk said of his team without Boothe. “I think our offensive efficiency is hurting.”
It is a great compliment to a freshman: We struggle without you. But there is a greater compliment to be had: We are winning because of you.
FACILITY UPGRADES: An auxiliary scoreboard has been installed at Savage Arena underneath the Grogan Room, giving fans — and perhaps more importantly, coaches and players — a second option after the overhead board.
The scoreboard, which hangs horizontally and is about 10 feet long, cost the university approximately $12,500. The Rockets will move toward the scoreboard in the second half, giving them a possible advantage over an opponent that must crane their neck to see the score and the game clock.
Also, the advertisement board beneath the scorer’s table has been replaced by an LED board. The upgrade, which was paid for through advertising dollars, was enacted to allow businesses the flexibility to change their message during the season.
HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW: Kowalczyk’s assistants grew mustaches this month in honor of prostate cancer, and although their boss appreciates the gesture, he will be glad to see them clean shaven again on Thursday.
“I think the mustaches look awful,” Kowalczyk said, smiling but not joking. “The only one that looks remotely decent is Angres Thorpe. Jason Kalsow and Ryan Pedon look rather foolish.”
Kowalczyk, who is involved in the “Tie On One” night each year to raise money for prostate cancer, joked that his wife would not let him grow a mustache.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.