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2017-18 Missouri Hoops Postseason Player Analysis: Kassius Robertson

A transfer from Canisius, Robertson was an undeniable positive who helped lift Missouri from a potentially disappointing year.

NCAA Basketball: Stephen F. Austin at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Three-hundred-thirty days ago, Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin landed the least heralded (but most important) member of his Top 5 recruiting class for the 2017 cycle. Michael Porter Jr. mania was in full swing, Blake Harris and CJ Roberts were in the fold, and Martin hadn’t officially locked in Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter. And while Tiger fans eagerly waited for news on the two blue-chip big men, a little-known MAAC transfer announced he’d head to Columbia for his final year of college ball.

From the beginning, everyone guessed Kassius Robertson would play a major role in the quick turnaround of Missouri basketball. He’d spent 3 years as a sharpshooter and star at Canisius, and would fit in nicely as Missouri’s first true 3-point threat since Jabari Brown. Dreams of MPJ driving and kicking to a wide open Kassius likely filled the daydreams of Tiger fans around the country.

Of course, the star recruit went down with a back injury months later, and it became abundantly clear Robertson’s role on the team would evolve. But even the most starry-eyed True Son couldn’t have guessed what Robertson would do over the next few months.

#3 Kassius Robertson

6'3" 180 lbs

2017-18 33 36.0 16.3 3.0 2.3 .422 .795 .432

Robertson used the new platform to become one of the SEC’s premier players, earning All-SEC First Team honors. He eclipsed his career best 3-point percentage by 22 percentage points (on a career-high 3-point attempt rate) while posting a career-best 22.7% usage rate and admirably handling some of the primary ball-handling duties on a team with no true point guard.

In his only year in Columbia, Robertson carved out a special niche in Missouri basketball history, going from outsider to program hero. Should we be pleasantly surprised by Robertson’s All-SEC season, or did we underestimate him to start?

Sam Snelling: I certainly think “pleasantly surprised” is the right feeling. Kassius wasn’t brought to Missouri to be an All-League player. And most grad transfers do not produce like Robertson did. You look at college basketball and graduate transfers are kind of a big thing happening right now, but how many 5th year seniors led their team in scoring and were selected to an all-conference team? I’ll save you the research... not many.

Kassius was asked to do things we never expected him to even be asked to do. We didn’t expect him to be a primary ball handler. We didn’t expect him to be the leading shot taker. But he was, and he was. I believe the hopes for him were high coming into the season, but he far surpassed expectations because he had to. Cuonzo Martin needed him to be great. He was.

Matt Harris: Mulling over what I should peck out about Kassius Robertson, I went back and looked at the circumstances under which he signed on with Missouri. I chuckled. It was early May. We were waiting on Jeremiah Tilmon and Kevin Knox’s decisions, pondering at the same time if Jontay Porter would reclassify. How did we react to Robertson’s pledge? Cautious optimism. The analytics made a solid case for the Canadian to plug in as a spot-up shooting threat, and his film confirmed as much: good lift, sound mechanics, and a quick release. So, I don’t think we undersold the value of his skill set. At worst, Robertson projected as a reliable floor spacer for an offense that would put a premium on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

What we didn’t expect was Kassius evolving into a combo guard—a metamorphosis that was driven by necessity after C.J. Roberts and Blake Harris exited and Terrence Phillips was dismissed. That’s what I’ll remember, too. Whatever MU needed, Robertson supplied the commodity. For example, Robertson wasn’t just solid in pick-and-rolls. He got better, seeing his efficiency improve by 20 percent this season from his final one at Canisius. Think about that. Robertson had to face tougher competition, operate in an entirely new offense and take on a role he had never been asked to play. And he was one of the best in the SEC. I don’t think we undersold Robertson. He just exceeded even the most bullish projections.

Moving forward, it’ll be hard to look at future grad transfers without using Robertson’s season as the baseline. And I feel for those guys, because it’s one they’ll struggle to match.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tashan Reed: I’m not sure if either of these is the term I’d go with to describe Kassius Robertson’s play this year. You could say that we should be pleasantly surprised, but his stats from his last year at Canisius align pretty closely with what he did this year at Mizzou. He was more efficient and productive facing much stiffer competition this year, but he’d already shown that he was a capable scorer and lights-out shooter. Rather than underestimate Kassius, I think that most of us simply overlooked him.

With the Porter brothers, Jeremiah Tilmon, C.J. Roberts and Blake Harris coming to town, he was an ignored acquisition despite having more experience than any of them combined. No one really knew who Robertson was, nor did they really seem to care. Instead of falling into the background, he was undoubtedly Missouri’s best player this season. They needed every single one of his improbable threes and clutch free throws in order to go from an SEC bottom feeder to NCAA Tournament bound.

Josh Matejka: I don’t know if it’s fair to say Robertson was underrated, because there was no realistic basis to expect what he did this year. Yes, we knew Martin was bringing in a sniper, so there’s a precedent for that part of his game. But there’s no way anyone could’ve known he would be this team’s heart and soul, except maybe if you’d have watched him play before.

And even then, would we have these kinds of expectations if another mid-major transfer came in the future? There’s just no way to have expected that a very good MAAC transfer would turn into a First Team All-SEC player and SEC Player of the Year candidate. I would say Robertson probably believed it of himself. And in the end, that’s what mattered - not what anyone expected, but what he knew he was capable of.

Chris Bohkay: I don’t think we necessarily underestimated him as much as we thought there would be more pieces around him, spreading the playing time and scoring requirements that would have limited his impact. If CJ Roberts works out, he’s taking some time, if only to give Kassius a break. If Blake Harris doesn’t transfer, he takes minutes that Kassius ends up eating at the point; same deal with Terrence Phillips getting kicked off the team. And if MPJ is there, the scoring load is lessened on Kassius, saving him more minutes. But we all knew he was going to be the starter, and we knew he’d get up his shots. We just didn’t see him on the floor as much as he was, nor having to shoulder the scoring load that he did. The fact that he was able to score as much as he did (and as often) is really a testament to his talents, because at times Mizzou’s offense was pretty much him or Barnett making things happen.

All that being said, he’s easily the greatest single season grad transfer Mizzou has ever had. Were he not on this team, the NCAA tournament and an above .500 conference record in a tough SEC aren’t even possibilities. He’s a True Son by all definitions of the term, and should never have to pay for a drink/meal in CoMo ever again.