There were two departures from the Iowa men's basketball program yesterday and while Keegan Murray's decision to leave Iowa early and enter the NBA Draft was widely expected, the other departure came as a little bit more of a surprise.
Thank you Iowa !! pic.twitter.com/rEkB8h1mst— Joe Toussaint (@jtoussaint_2) March 29, 2022
Iowa's lightning-quick point guard is officially on the move.
Toussaint's decision to leave Iowa and seek an opportunity elsewhere is surprising... but also not that surprising, given how things have gone for him at Iowa, particularly this past season. Minutes were often hard to come by for Joe T at Iowa. He began his career as an off-the-bench sparkplug for Iowa, providing energy, defensive intensity, and a whole lot of quickness when he hit the floor. He actually entered the starting lineup for the final 20 games of Iowa's pandemic-shortened season in 2020, before returning to his role as a key reserve in 2020-21. Toussaint returned to the starting lineup for 2021-22, starting the first 21 games of the season, before making way for a Jordan Bohannon-Tony Perkins starting back court in the final 15 games of the season.
But the starter/reserve distinction can be a bit misleading for Toussaint, because even when he's started games, he often hasn't played "starter minutes." He played 19 or fewer minutes in 11 of the 20 games he started in 2020. That trend persisted this season; he played 20 or fewer minutes in 14 of the 21 games he started in 2021-22. Toussaint was occasionally -- but not always -- in at the end of games as a "finisher," but his average minutes (17.4 per game) lagged way behind the rest of Iowa's regular starters.
Despite his limited playing time, Toussaint led Iowa in assists (114 total, 3.2 per game) and steals (51 total, 1.4 per game). He also led Iowa in turnovers (49 total, 1.4 per game), despite playing fewer minutes than several starters/regulars. Those numbers kind of sum up the Joe Toussaint Experience in a nutshell -- sharp passing and quick hands, but also more sloppiness than you want to see out of your floor general. Toussaint was exceptionally quick, often able to blaze down the court in transition or zip past an opponent. But he was occasionally too quick for his own good, sometimes literally -- he lost his footing more than any basketball player I've seen in quite a while and he could get a little too careless with the ball. You could better overlook some of those deficiencies in his game if his overall offensive game was stronger, but that was the another reason that Fran tended to have a quick hook on his playing time; Toussaint never shot better than 42% from the floor or 30% from 3-point range. This season he hit 42% of his field goals and just 26% of his 3-point tries. It's hard to sustain a high-level offense with a point guard who can't shoot.
Iowa went 12-3 after Perkins replaced Toussaint in the starting lineup (and Jordan Bohannon took over as Iowa's main point guard) and while you can't put that improvement solely on the change to the starting lineup, that move certainly worked out very well for Iowa and was a key spark in their surge over the second half of the season. Toussaint was still an extremely valuable contributor to Iowa down the stretch -- we won't soon forget his 4 points and 4 steals in just 10 minutes of action against Purdue in the Big Ten Tourney final -- and it often seemed like Fran's hook for him was too quick and that he should have had a bit more playing time than he got. (There were several second halves when Toussaint remained rooted to the bench for unclear reasons; that said, a 12-3 record is hard to complain about too much.)
That mid-season demotion for Toussaint likely put him on the path to yesterday's decision to enter the transfer portal. Toussaint has had opportunities to be Iowa's starting point guard -- again, he started in that role in over half of Iowa's games this year as well as in 2020 -- and it's become very clear that Fran McCaffery doesn't see him as a player who can start for Iowa and play 25 minutes a game. Even if Toussaint returned next year and began the season as the nominal starter, would his minutes played have changed that much or would he have continued to cede minutes to Perkins, Ahron Ulis, and incoming freshman Dasonte Bowen? Recent history suggests the latter was the more likely scenario.
Toussaint's decision to depart sets up Perkins, Ulis, Bowen, and Payton Sandfort as Iowa's top four guards at the moment, with Connor McCaffery able to assume some minutes as well if he returns for one more season (which seems possible/likely at this point). Iowa will also have incoming freshman Josh Dix and walk-on Carter Kingsbury (son of Iowa legend Chris Kingsbury) available next season, although it would probably be wise to temper expectations for their contributions next year, given that Dix is coming off a gruesome leg injury that ended his senior season and Kingsbury is still just a walk-on. Bohannon and Toussaint combined for over 43 minutes of playing time this season, so that's a lot of playing time -- not to mention production -- that will need to be replaced next year.
Given the trends re: his playing time, it's ultimately not that surprising to see Toussaint deciding to look elsewhere for a team where he can play a bigger role than he was likely to have at Iowa. We wish him the very best in that move. It's been a lot of fun to watch Toussaint -- or Joe T or Joey Toots as we affectionately called him -- over the last few years and we hope he can find a good spot to finish out his college career. Thanks for the memories, Joe.