Monday afternoon we began our preseason position primer with the point guards, so logically the next step would be to cover the next guys in the back court, the combo guards. Combo guards are a nice ‘cause they can fill in at the point if they have the handles and move out to the wing to put up shots to keep the defense honest, especially if they’re hitting their shots.
For Mizzou when we think combo guards we’re thinking holdover Cullen VanLeer (a more discussed player by RMN commenters than any in a long time) and new comer Frankie Hughes who ended up at Mizzou thanks to the wildly out of control program in Louisville.
Before we jump into this preview, it’s worth noting that both Jordan Geist (previewed yesterday) and KJ Walton (being previewed next week) could fall into this role should lineups, injuries, or foul trouble could force either of these guys into this role. Also gone are Wes Clark, Tramaine Isabell and Martavian Payne who played as many minutes for Mizzou as all of you wonderful readers did.
As in the previous post, we’ve got Sam Snelling, Tramel Raggs and myself providing you with our thoughts on how these guys will help shape the 2016-2017 Mizzou basketball season and if these are the guys to lead our Tigers out of the darkness that has become the norm around here.
Cullen VanLeer is going to start here. Whether Mizzou fans like it or not, haha. Honestly, the coaching staff loves VanLeer. They trust him and they believe in him, and all CVL needs to do to get Mizzou fans back on board is to start making shots. The questions are going to persist until he does just that, because the Tigers need scoring and in particular they need players who are going to be consistent shooters from the outside. At 27% a year ago, VanLeer needs to hit above the 35% barrier and he’s capable.
I really am interested to see how the minutes are doled out after CVL, mainly because Jordan Geist is probably everyones first thought but the guy who played a LOT on the trip to Italy was freshman Frankie Hughes. I’m an enormous fan of this kids potential. From his length in getting deflections to his compact and efficient jumpshot, Hughes has real potential. He’ll likely float between the CG spot and the wing, as he’s much more comfortable off the ball. I’d love to insert K.J. Walton in here, as he’s an ideal candidate with his size to be more of a combo guard, but I don’t feel his ball security is sound enough to be relied upon as a main option. If Phillips is in the game at point, they can run some with Walton at the 2, but that puts the pressure on Phillips to handle the ball almost exclusively.
With the dearth of viable point guards, its entirely likely that we see Cullen VanLeer taking a turn running the point should he prove adept and Jordan Geist moving to the combo guard spot on the floor. Speaking of Mr. VanLeer, there has not been a player more discussed on RMN in quite some time. CVL had a very, very bad freshman season yet he played minutes that would indicate that he was having a standout year. Most known for his ability to hit the outside shot, Mizzou fans anticipated that even if his production was spotty he’d have a few threes in him that would allow him to contribute offensively to a team that had a very difficult time scoring. Yet that was not the case. Whether it was a question of an inability to square up fast enough to get around his defender, or if the nerves associated with big time SEC basketball (stop laughing, seriously, settle down) were too much, CVL was more of a liability than anything else on the floor. On top of that, VanLeer was taking minutes from KJ Walton who most fans saw more from in limited game time that intrigued them for the future.
That all said, when Mizzou went on it’s European vacation this summer, VanLeer was shooting lights out, hitting as high as 50% from outside and leading the team in scoring in a couple games and showing a glimpse of what Mizzou fans expected from him from day one. Does this translate to his sophomore year, we’ll have to wait and see? But if Mizzou is to improve after two straight down years, they’re going to have to shoot better, especially from the outside and that’s going to have to come from VanLeer. On top of that, with a year in the system and Mizzou being an extremely young team again CVL’s defense will have to improve where he was beaten repeatedly off the dribble last year thus causing the post men to have to move towards his side of the floor and thus leaving someone open. The glass half full from all this criticism though is that he can only get better having spent a year and change learning the offense and getting used to big time basketball.
On the other side of the ball we have late signee Frankie Hughes out of Garfield High in Cleveland Ohio who signed with Mizzou to be with his friend and high school teammate Willie Jackson. So big thanks to Willie and Rick Pitino’s staff that seemed to dabble in the oldest profession.
Hughes is 6’4 and a shade under 200 lbs that can shoot the rock from all over the place. For a team that lacked scoring and a severe inability to hit from downtown Hughes could fill a role that has been sorely lacking for two years now. This could also result in Hughes getting the most minutes of any of this year’s incoming class and potentially pushing VanLeer out of the starting lineup, or over to the point guard position should he prove able. It is important to remember that being a freshman, expectations should be tempered but if he can do what we hope he can, Mizzou could be making a move in a more positive direction.
Coming next week we’ll take a look at the guys on the wing where Mizzou’s depth is both intriguing and exciting.