As we reach the conclusion of our position and player primer, it’s time to finish up with the big guys in the post. Over the years the role of the big has changed from what we saw in the 80s and 90s where you had a behemoth down low who would just grab boards, get putbacks, throw down a big dunk and be terrible at free throw shooting. Now, the guys in the post almost fit more in the traditional mold of a four, with some being looked at to have a longer scoring reach.
For Mizzou, the post is a position that will invariably be weaker than it was last year. And that’s a credit to the guy who left. Let’s take a moment to remember Ryan Rosburg. Rosburg for three and a half years really didn’t do too much and many thought that if he was playing it was more due to what other players around him weren’t doing than what he was. Then, something happened, well two somethings happened. One, Mizzou got destroyed by Arkansas at home (where everyone looked awful), then the next day in surely coincidental timing, Mizzou announced a series of minor NCAA violations and that it would place itself on probation, and skip postseason play. From that moment on, almost as if he was free of a burden, Rosburg blew up and finished the season averaging 11.5 points per game and 4 rebounds per game. He became the prototypical center for a Kim Anderson team. Now, he’s gone. Which brings us to today’s preview…
If somehow Mizzou can get productive minutes from Russell Woods, something that did not happen through the bulk of SEC play last season, they’ll be in a much better spot. Woods doesn’t have to be flashy, he just needs to score with reasonable chances, rebound hard, defend, and not foul a bunch. I don’t mean to demean Woods role, but at this stage, the middle of the floor is an obvious weakness on this team. The better Woods plays, the less of a weakness the role becomes.
Of the other bigs I think you’ll see some contributions on the smaller scale from Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, but its hard to count on freshmen like that. Nikko is big enough he could defend and rebound and maybe get a drop off dunk here and there, and Smith is a touch more polished but both are green.
One thing I think we could see is Kevin Puryear in the 5-spot, let the Tigers go a bit smaller and take advantage of your strengths which is on the wing. Try to get more athletes flying at the rim, like K.J. Walton, Jordan Barnett, Frankie Hughes and Willie Jackson. You’ll struggle to rebound but hopefully, you can offset that weakness by becoming more difficult to defend on the other end.
Russell Woods: If his knees hold up, Woods should be more consistent playing in his second year at the Division 1 level. [He] doesn’t have to be a star: Woods just needs to make the shots he’s supposed to make, crash the boards and [not] allow everyone to slice through the lane for easy buckets.
Nikko Reed: Following the knee surgery earlier this year, it appears that Reed is close to full strength. While his offensive game needs refining, don’t be surprised if Coach Anderson brings him in for defensive purposes as a rim protector.
Mitchell Smith: While Smith is more polished offensively than Reed, his slender build will probably hinder him from seeing a ton of minutes this season. But if he can prove to the coaching staff that he has the ability to play solid defense, he may be able to scrape out a decent little role for Missouri.
Again, I never thought I would be typing this, but how are we going to fill Ryan Rosburg’s shoes? Well, Mizzou has a number of options, mostly inexperienced but options nonetheless.The most experienced player Mizzou will be turning to will be senior Russell Woods. Woods had an off and on, but mostly off year last year. In non-conference, play he showed flashes of being able to rebound, grabbing 10 boards both against Illinois and against UAPB, he also put up 9 points against Wofford in game one but other than that, he was a non-factor. I think we’ll see Woods in the starting lineup in game one but merely as a placeholder, either based on the two freshmen below or based on what kind of offense Mizzou wants to run. What we should hope for from Woods, is some flash in the moment games and that he finishes out his second semester academically in good standing.
Joining Woods in the post are Mitchell Smith out of Arkansas and Reed Nikko out of Minnesota. Both players will have ample opportunity to get minutes in a position that has no real depth and in a conference where big bodies who can bang are prevalent, their minutes will be needed.
Smith comes in at 6 foot 10 inches but only weighs 210 pounds so he’s got to spend every waking moment eating, eating and eating. He’s got a good handle on the offensive side of the ball for a man of his size but he lacks something on the defensive end that could see his minutes limited. He’s got the kind of body right now that will get pushed around under the basket, so perhaps we’ll see him more of a stretch four role putting up shots and looking to corral a long rebound or two. Smith seems like a work in progress that we should watch how he progresses from Friday night until March.
Reed Nikko is a big boy, also coming in at 6 foot 10 inches but having 40 pounds on Smith at 250. His body is, on paper, college ball ready. However, he has had two hip surgeries in the past year and so how much and well he plays is to be determined. He could surprise and prove physically able to withstand a full college season and fill in nicely the hole that Rosburg has left on the roster. How he plays will be a testament to whether Rosburg blew up on his own, finally taking charge of himself, or if the coaches got him where he needed to be.
Both Mitchell and Reed are projects, but the speed at which they pick up the college game could decide whether Mizzou has another crap year, or if they finally come out of the darkness and into the light of relevant college basketball.
That will do it for our position/player primer. We hope you’ve enjoyed it, and tune into the SEC on WatchESPN as the Tigers take on Central Missouri tomorrow night at 7:00 PM as we really and truly tip off the 2016-2017 season.