Two weeks before the start of the new season, I asked University of San Francisco coach Rex Walters about the strength of the point guard position in the WCC.
Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos, BYU's Matt Carlino, LMU's Anthony Ireland and San Diego's Christopher Anderson are each all-conference candidates, but Walters made a case for his own point guard, four-year starter Cody Doolin, as the best of the group.
"He may not look like a player when he walks on the floor and he's not going to wow you with his size and his body, but the bottom line is he has led our team to so many victories," Walters said. "All the game-winning shots and game-winning plays he has made, I would not pick anyone over him."
Given Walters' glowing praise for Doolin, you can imagine how distraught the USF coach must be about losing his point guard. USF announced Tuesday night that the senior is leaving the basketball team for personal reasons but will remain enrolled in school and is scheduled to receive his degree in finance in the spring.
Doolin hadn't played in either of USF's most recent two games, a one-point home win over Montana last Friday and a blowout road loss at Oregon two days later. He was averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 assists and only 1.5 turnovers for a Dons team expected to finish in the upper half of the WCC this season thanks to the inside-outside duo of Doolin and fellow senior Cole Dickerson.
That high a finish now seems unlikely without Doolin. The Texas native was overlooked as a recruit because of his slender frame and small stature, but no other point guard on the USF roster can match his quiet leadership, efficient scoring or impressive court vision.
"He's as good as I've been around at getting guys shots," Walters said of Doolin last month. "He's good enough that he can score it on his own, but he literally can tell you going full speed at any moment where the other nine guys are on the court and maybe even what some of the coaches are saying. He has great vision and great feel to really find people."
Roster attrition is hardly a new problem for USF. In spring 2012, the Dons lost six tranfers including standout center Perris Blackwell, who is now the starting for Washington.
Those transfers set Walters' building process back a full season. Expect Doolin's untimely departure to do the same.