Cullen VanLeer. Is there a more discussed Mizzou player than him? Like Kevin Puryear, Cullen is a true son from Pacific, Mo., and he no doubt loves Mizzou, maybe even more than you do. He’s getting to live the dream — playing ball in the SEC at the State School in his home state. It should all be gravy ... but it’s not.
Cullen VanLeer is the epitome of the Kim Anderson Era, at times underprepared and overwhelmed. As a result, all Mizzou fans have an opinion on him. And while everyone would like to see him succeed, after two years there have been but a few flashes.
#33 Cullen VanLeer
6'4" 208 lbs
In his second season, VanLeer did improve, if marginally. He increased his scoring, got a few more boards and made a few more assists, but overall, the jump you’d like to see from year one to year two just wasn’t there.
In year one, the biggest complaint from Mizzou fans was the minutes he was taking from K.J. Walton, and in year two that continued. He continued to siphon minutes from Walton and Frankie Hughes, though Hughes looked wildly lost for most of the season.
Throughout the season, VanLeer would get major minutes because the coaching staff trusted him more than others to be on the floor without getting in the way or make a critical error.
And here we are, entering year three with VanLeer still unsure of what his potential is. Have we seen his ceiling? Or has he been asked to do much on a bad team where his play sticks out like a sore thumb? We know what he thinks he is — an outside shooter who, when he gets going, can shoot his team into a game. He did it versus Auburn in the SEC tournament. But that’s about it.
This is not to pile on VanLeer, he has been put in a position and in a role by the previous coaching staff that did not suit him. Going forward, perhaps Cullen takes a spot on the bench and comes in for a few minutes a game, gets some open looks from outside, and provides a nice spark when his team needs it.
In year three, perhaps a reset is in order. That may be the best for Cullen and for the fanbase that can’t stop themselves from talking about him.
I’ve always felt like VanLeer played the role of the lightning rod for the Kim Anderson haters. He’s the guy who didn’t have the offers coming out of high school. He was being recruited by mid-majors (even though they were really good mid-majors like Evansville, Missouri State, Valpo and Wofford), and had no power conference offers. Because of that when he was on the floor he looked overmatched. And in reality, he was.
But let’s be honest here, most of the team was overmatched and that’s why they’ve won 18 games the last two years. Cullen was asked by the previous coaching staff to do a lot, and he wasn’t capable of doing what they were asking... at least not to the level needed for him and the Tigers to be successful.
That isn’t on Cullen. Perhaps in a perfect world he could have played a lot less behind more experienced guys and just had spot duty. Maybe after riding the bench for a few years he earns more time after the guys ahead of him graduate and he proves he belongs. Honestly, I hope Cullen VanLeer sticks around and provides good things for Mizzou and on winning teams.
I’d like to see him shoot better, and maybe he does when the offensive focus is taken off of him by players like Michael Porter Jr and Jordan Barnett. Either way I think there is a role on next years team for CVL, and I hope we get to see the redemption play out over the next few years.
Technically, Kim Anderson was right about Cullen VanLeer’s potential to play efficient, smart ball and make a difference in wins and losses. In the Tigers’ eight wins this year, CVL averaged 9.3 points per game, made 43% of his 3-pointers and 88% of his free throws, and threw in 2.3 assists, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game while committing just 1.3 turnovers. That’s a quality role player!
The problem, of course, is that Mizzou won only eight games. In losses, CVL averaged 4.4 points and shot 31% from the field and 28% on 3-pointers.
I do credit Cullen for this, though: he settled. I'm not sure I've ever been madder at Kim Anderson for an in-game decision than when he kept VanLeer in to implode near the end of the Illinois game. I'm not sure someone's play has ever screamed "trying desperately to do too much" like his did in that game, and it was irresponsible for Anderson to keep him in.
Predictably, that game sent CVL into a bit of a spiral, and he averaged only about 9 minutes per game over the five games after that. But over the last 15 games of the year, he averaged 6.3 points and made 24 of 64 3s (38%). That'll play.
In the home stretch, I think we saw a growing, viable version of Cullen VanLeer. Mizzou's still going to need 3-point shooters next year, and 38% is pretty good. If he sticks around, he could become useful ... as long as expectations are set appropriately. I think Martin will set them appropriately.