In my most Buzzfeed- like article ever, I decided with a boring offseason swirling around us that I’d just go ahead and arbitrarily rank the returning Mizzou players in order of who I expect to have the largest impact on the team this upcoming season.
1. Terrence Phillips
Phillips gets the nod at the top spot over the others for a very simple reason: He’s the only true point guard on the roster, and his growth at the position will be of the utmost importance for this team if it wants to improve on it’s place last season. Phillips impressed a lot of us this past season with a steady jump shot and his ability to handle such a big work load. He struggled at times with fouls, mostly due to his inexperience at the college level, and being able to quickly adjust to how the game was being called. But there’s no doubt that this team will only go as far as Phillips takes them this season.
2. K.J. Walton
Walton has the highest ceiling of the players coming back this season. His ability to get to the rim, draw fouls and create offense got Mizzou fans wondering why he wasn’t on the floor more. The coaches had their reasons (one can suppose) for not playing Walton more, but if Mizzou expects to take a giant step forward this season, the driving force behind that growth will need to be K.J. Walton. I don’t think you can expect K.J. to go from five points a game to 25, but if he could average 12 or more that would go a long way towards helping this team succeed.
3. Kevin Puryear
When the talent starved offense of the Tigers desperately needed a basket last season, they often turned to Kevin Puryear. Puryear was a consistent offensive player who showed the rare ability for a Missouri Tiger in recent years of being able to score baskets. He’s a strong, though undersized, post player who can stretch the floor a bit with his jumper. I’ve slated Puryear third because his level of consistency only needs to improve slightly for Mizzou to get better. Puryear will be a consistent scorer again, but a boost in rebounding and defense could mean even more.
4. Russell Woods
An up and, mostly, down season last year limited the expectations for the kind of impact Russell Woods would have on the team moving forward. However, with just one season left to play in his college career, Woods still has a chance to prove his serviceability. I don’t think you’re going to see a Ricardo Ratliffe-like season from Woods, but a 6&6 kind of season isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. Woods just needs to provide defense, rebounding and enough offense to help this team win more games than we’d expect.
5. Cullen VanLeer
Missouri certainly needs Cullen to show more than he did a season ago, the player most billed for his ability to stretch the floor failed to live up to the hype by only shooting 27.3%, or 6th on the team. CVL will still have some opportunity to give the Tigers a lift, but he’s going to need to shoot the ball better.
6. Adam Wolf
No offense to Adam, but the larger of a role he plays, the higher of percentage of scholarship players are either failing or getting injured. Neither would be a good sign for Missouri. Wolfe has some ability and showed flashes in limited minutes last season, but he doesn’t have the size or athleticism to compete on a nightly basis in the SEC.
So that’s the list. With only six returning players, I look for the top three to have the most impact next season, and the following three players to be more role guys. Feel free to provide your list below if you disagree with my order.
Coming tomorrow I’ll have a list of the newcomers and their expected impact... RANKED!