For this year's basketball previews we're focusing on position primers in place of a player per player rundown. We've broken these up into Point Guards, Combo Guards, Wings, Combo Forwards and the Post (Keanau Post not included) and will be dropping a new one each day until Friday.
Today, with the help of Sam Snelling, Belegcam, Jaeger, Chris Turner and myself (fare thee well HHKB) we're looking at the Point Guards. This group consists of Wes Clark, Tramaine Isabell, Martavian Payne and Terrance Phillips.
In my mind, this comes down to the experience of Clark vs. the promise of Phillips. I’m a big Tramaine Isabell fan, and he’ll get his share of minutes at both guard spots (assuming he stays out of Kim Anderson’s doghouse), but I think he’s at his best coming off the bench for now. I have no idea what to think of Martavian Payne, so I’ll reserve judgement for when he’s played at least a few games in a Mizzou uniform. My pick would be Phillips, albeit mostly because I want Clark starting at the 2 instead of the point. He’s been playing the point at a high level at an elite high school, and for a team in rebuilding mode, that’s good enough for me. That said, Wes Clark should be allowed to do whatever he wants in crunch time. He’s more than earned the right.
Kim Anderson has said on multiple occasions that any team playing in the SEC, and playing his style, needs to have many options to handle the ball. Last year, this really didn't work out as he'd hoped. With the injury to Clark, the suspension to TI, and Teki's injury, outside of Keith Shamburger, Mizzou couldn't get a consistent rhythm going at the Point. This year, it looks like KA will have what he needs to run his offense. He's got a straight, pass first point guard in Phillips, a sophomore who seems to have really bought in in TI, an experienced vet looking to take on more of a leadership role in Clark and an experienced off guard in Payne. At the outset I'm expecting to see Wes at two spot, with TI starting and Phillips and Payne coming off the bench. I'm betting by midseason, once the game slows down for Phillips we'll see him starting pushing TI to come off the bench and Payne to share time with the guys on the Wing. Clark will see the floor from the jump and I'm betting his role is a little more nebulous dependent upon who's out there with him. This group is very exciting and should everyone stay healthy and on point, should be where the leadership of this team comes from. Personally, I really want to see TI harness that swag he's got and play a little less out of control.
Watching the MO Western game, it was apparent that Phillips is the most "pure" point guard on the roster. He had the most assists, the most steals, and, generally, the offense ran the smoothest when he was running it. On top of that, he gave me flashbacks to the Mike Anderson glory years when he went chasing after a loose ball and wound up flying over the sideline table. Phillips is the kind of guy that CMA would have loved for his active defense and willingness to bodily hurl himself about the court, and that any basketball coach would love to have for his high character, leadership, and passing ability. There’s a lot of (unproven) talent on this team, but Phillips could be really special.
Clark spent most of his time playing off the ball, and, initially, I thought Isabell might be in a tight spot, because Barton came in before he did. In retrospect, I’m fairly certain it’s because Mizzou was up something in the neighborhood of 27-9, and HCKA put Barton in because he was trying to take his foot off the gas a little bit. Having said that, this team has a lot of burgeoning talent handling the ball; Clark will probably play some at the 1 (although he settled in mostly at the 2 against MO Western), and a guy like Payne can run the offense in a pinch. Tramaine Isabell should be the #2 PG, though. He didn’t do much in the first half, and his initial usage suggested the staff was using him more as an off guard behind Clark, Payne, and and Walton (and, presumably, Wright). In the second half, though, they let him run the offense, and he exploded, winding up as the second leading scorer. Isabell is more of a scoring PG than Phillips is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially given the dearth of offense last year.
Long story short, I think Phillips will probably be our starting point guard this year, backed up by Isabell, with the other ball handlers, especially Clark, slotting in occasionally as well. But Clark is the guy you want leading your transition game; he is a monster on a breakaway (he had an outstanding pass on a transition basket in the exhibition, as well as scoring the majority of his points there), and I think Clark is the guy who gets the ball late in the game, at least until Phillips proves himself.
This should be a really interesting group to watch. I think Phillips and Isabell play the bulk of the minutes at point, with Clark stepping in occasionally and Payne largely playing off the ball. From what I’m hearing Clark will be starting, but possibly not at the point guard spot. The other guard spot will either be Isabell or Phillips, and at this point I’d probably let the experience start ahead of the freshman. I do think that Phillips is the long term answer, and could take over that role starting even this year. But TI has the potential to be an important cog on the roster due to his creativity on offense. Those three need to do things: 1) limit turnovers 2) find open shooters 3) get the bigs involved. If they’re able to do that on a regular basis the future is bright.
Chris L Turner
Wes is a Junior and should get a majority of the minutes at PG. He’s also the guy who you give the ball when the clock is winding down, I think he’s earned that. However, after a solid first outing against MO Western in the exhibition game Friday, I think Terrance Phillips could easily work his way to some serious minutes in his first year with the program. I agree with what belegcam said about potentially working in Wes at the 2 guard and letting Terrance run the point. Both on the floor could be a very interesting combination going forward. Martavian Payne hasn’t had a chance to show us what he’s fully capable of, so for now he’s bringing rear for the PGs. Tramaine Isabell, if he stays out of trouble, can be an asset off the bench at either the one or the two.