The first time I saw Casiem Drummond play, last December against Temple at the Liacouras Center, it was had not to be impressed.
He just looked like the kind of big man who could make a difference. Not that he was going to average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. But because he could be a presence down low, at both ends, and give you a solid 20-25 minutes, and make guys like Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena better.
It's not going to happen. At least not on the Main Line.
Right after that Temple game, Drummond was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his ankle. And never really recovered. This season, he hasn't looked right. He's looked slow, and out of place. Even frustrated. And, for whatever reasons, it showed. He was suspended by coach Jay Wright for last week's Monmouth game, for what Wright termed a minor violation of team rules. Drummond was back on the bench for the weekend games at the Palestra, but didn't play. Maybe we should have realized something was up.
Villanova announced today that the 6-10 junior center is no longer part of the team, and will look to transfer.
"Casiem is interested in finding a place where he can earn significantly more playing time than he has recieved here," Wright said in a statement. "Our staff is going to do all it can to help him locate that opportunity. Cas has made strides in his time with us, and we appreciate all his efforts on behalf of our basketball family."
In two appearances this season, Drummond averaged 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19 minutes. He'd started nine times in 42 games overall. His best game came last November, when he had nine and 17 in a 1-point loss to North Carolina State in Orlando.
At the end of last season, freshman guard Malcolm Grant left the program over his lack of playing time and ended up at Miami.
Grant was trying to get minutes in a backcourt that includes Scottie Reynolds, Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher. That's a junior who's probably staying for his fourth season, and two sophomores. It was an understandable decision.
In Drummond's case, Wright could use all the help he can in the frontcourt, especially when the Big East portion of the schedule arrives. And particularly since senior swingman Dwayne Anderson is out indefinitely with a stress fracture of his own. Wright, however, is optimistic that Anderson could be back by late December or early January, even it it's not at 100 percent.
Without Drummond, it just means that the Wildcats are going to have to get even more out of what they do have. Cunningham has shown that he's improved a lot, especially at the offensive end. Pena shows flashes of big-time ability. But they do both have a tendency to get into foul trouble. And there just isn't a lot of help. Senior Fran Tshuisi tries, but still just doesn't look quite ready enough. But he's a body, and might have to do. Forward Shane Clark and swingman Reggie Redding will obviously be counted on to do more now. And both look to be up to it. They've basically played without Drummond up until this point anyway. Now it's just become official that it's going to stay that way.
The 20th-ranked team in the country (6-0) plays Penn (1-4) on Tuesday night at the Palestra. The Wildcats will play Top 10 Texas next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The Big East begins on Jan. 1 at Marquette. If nothing else, Wright has proven that he can change on the fly. No reason he can't do so again. It's just going to have to be a little different. Doesn't mean this can't still be a successful ride.