Kassius Robertson will be the starting point guard for Missouri in its season opener against Iowa State.
And Cullen VanLeer started at shooting guard in the Tigers' scrimmage against Missouri State.
Yes, you read both of those correctly. While it's uncertain whether VanLeer will start against the Cyclones, Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed in his press conference today that Robertson will play point guard.
“I would say right now if we started the game, I would either go with Kassius, or maybe Blake [Harris], but I would say Kassius right now,” Martin said. When asked if that was different from what he envisioned happening, he nodded his head and gave a simple “yes.”
This comes as a surprise, as the transfer from Canisius was expected to play shooting guard this year. The competition for the lead guard spot was supposed to be between Blake Harris and Terrence Phillips, not Robertson.
“Nah, not even close, it definitely came as a shock to me.” Robertson said when asked if he anticipated changing positions. Jordan Barnett joked with Robertson over the summer that he should play point guard, “I thought he was crazy,” Robertson said.
Robertson admitted that he's never actually played point guard on any level. “I've been wanting to play point guard for a long time in my career,” Robertson said. “I've never had a coach actually trust me as much as Coach Martin has.”
Switching from shooting to point guard isn't an easy transition. “It's definitely a different mentality,” Robertson said. He pointed to playing full-court defense as the hardest adjustment he's had to make, “We jam the ball, so the point guard usually picks up full-court the whole game. That's tiring, for sure.”
Despite this, he doesn't think the change will be as big of a deal as it may seem. Whenever Harris or Phillips are in the game, Robertson said he goes back to mostly playing shooting guard.
Martin was impressed by Robertson's ability to handle and distribute the ball, viewing him mostly as a shooter and off-the-ball talent before he arrived at Mizzou.
“Watching him on film and then when he got here I just felt like with his ability to make shots you wanted him catching and shooting,” Martin said. “But he's been a better ball handler than I anticipated, as far as handling the ball and then making decisions with the basketball.”
It'll be interesting to see what lineup takes the floor for Missouri in what's the most highly anticipated basketball game in years. Regardless of the lineup, the sold-out crowd at the Mizzou Arena will be rocking.
It's no secret that the hype is mostly due to the arrival of Michael Porter Jr. The AP All-American is talented — we all know this — and everyone is excited to see him play. However, fans will be disappointed unless MPJ's arrival brings victories.
Martin's goal for the Tigers' first game is simple: win. The stern-faced coach genuinely looked uninterested in all of the hoopla surrounding his team. “Not to sound negative, but I really don't care, I really don't” Martin said when asked if he was worried about his players besides MPJ not getting enough attention.
His primary concern is results, and that's what he'll be looking for against Iowa State. “I want guys to play the game, I want them to be successful, I want those guys to be happy and if they consume what people are saying about em then they're not making progress like they should,” Martin said.
That's something the Mizzou faithful should find easy to get behind after arguably the worst three-year stretch in school history. The lineup may come as a surprise when 8 p.m. comes on Friday, but the Tigers will look to make sure that the result of the game doesn't.