When Jordan Barnett made his decision to head back to the Show Me State after a brief tenure in Texas, Missouri was 8-9. Recent NCAA Tournament hero Wes Clark was gearing up for a 26-point outing against South Carolina and NBA draft hopeful Tramaine Isabell was getting bench minutes. By the time Barnett reached the floor at Mizzou Arena, 9 of his ‘15-’16 teammates would be gone: 6 by transfer, 1 dismissal, 1 for personal reasons, and 1 graduation. And before he even played a full year, the coach he committed would be gone as well.
It’s safe to say that Barnett left the confines of the Frank Erwin Center to go to a program in the gutter. For that, Missouri fans should feel some sort of gratitude. And while his career at Missouri was abbreviated (in more ways than one), he was able to deliver on his 4-star, Top 100 recruit promise.
#21 Jordan Barnett
6'7" 215 lbs
In one year under Cuonzo Martin, Barnett bettered himself as an all-around threat. He had a tendency to disappear for stretches, but he still ended up second on the team in scoring and minutes, and third in rebounding. Ultimately, it was his ability to tickle the twine that stood out, especially with Missouri’s preseason All-American relegated to cheerleader duty for most of the year.
Barnett quickly cemented himself as a key contributor on a team lacking for consistent scorers. What were the most important contributions he made to the program’s quick turnaround?
Sam Snelling: When Michael Porter Jr. went down, Missouri really needing scoring and the most likely to take over that role was Barnett. We all knew Barnett was athletic and was a capable shooter, but I don’t think anyone anticipated him going from 30% to 42% as a senior. Barnett consistency as a shooter was paramount to this team’s success, and he came through.
The Missouri offense was predicated on ball movement and taking advantage of open shooters. For that to work, open shooters have to make shots, and Barnett made shots at an incredible rate. True shooting percentage factors in three point shooting along with two point shooting and free throws. Barnett was just outside the top 100 in the country at a 62.7% clip, which led the Tigers. True shooting is similar to effective FG% which Barnett led the Tigers in as well, on top of an Offensive Rating at 120.3. Barnett’s ability to score (and do so efficiently) was one of the biggest keys to Mizzou’s success. Later in the season, Barnett also added the other dimension of being one of the top defensive stoppers on the team.
Overall, he did everything you needed him to do as a senior... except for that last thing. I just hope that’s not the lasting impression Mizzou fans have of Barnett. “Local kid comes home and does good to help turn around the program around,” sounds a lot better.
Matt Harris: To me, Barnett offered scoring punch, but only in short bursts. There were times this year where he’d knock in a transition 3-pointer, then a spot-up jumper and then go quiet, usually in the second half when an opposing staff swapped personnel. But I’ll halt my critique there. Mizzou needed jump shooting, especially a threat you could station on the weak side for pitch-outs from the post. Bingo. Jordan was your guy. And while Barnett never added a slashing component to his game, he could exploit aggressive defensive rotations as a baseline cutter. When his outside stroke was on, Mizzou could get hyper-efficient production without having to make Barnett the primary threat on an action.
Over time, though, he evolved into a 3-and-D wing, especially tracking shooters off screens and MU’s best defender in high pick-and-rolls. He also happened to be MU’s best rebounding wing, especially on the defensive glass. The ability to force tough shots and limit second possessions offset those nights when Barnett misfired or seemed disengaged. If we’ve learned anything from Martin’s debut season, it’s that blowing a defense assignment or a lack of effort on 50-50 balls could get you yanked for a spell. Barnett earned trust by season’s end.
Obviously, the DUI arrest leaves a big smudge. And as I wrote after the loss to Florida State, Barnett’s presence loomed large on defense. You control pace through defense, making teams play out the string. Well, without a bigger, athletic wing in the rotation, MU just didn’t have the depth or horses to check FSU. Keep in mind, too, that Geist was banged up. Porter clearly wasn’t at full-speed. And Robertson’s workload clearly took a toll late. Who knows if Barnett’s 3-pointers would have dropped, but having him on Terrence Mann would clearly have helped.
There’s no doubt Barnett helped pull Mizzou out of a ditch, but he also left you wondering what gains were left to be made.
Tashan Reed: Shooting, shooting, and more shooting. There were times this year where Jordan Barnett seemed like he literally couldn’t miss a 3. He shot 41.4% from deep - good for third in the Southeastern Conference - and had several outbursts. The St. Louis native hit five or more 3s in six games, including a career-high 28 point performance against Florida. He also averaged the third-most rebounds on the team with 5.9 per game, using his athleticism to soar above taller players and snag the ball out of the air. The biggest issue with Barnett was his tendency to fade in second halves, his lack of focus on the defensive end, and his overall inconsistency. Barnett failed to score in double digits in 10 of his 32 appearances. He was underwhelming on the defensive end despite boasting the prerequisite length and physical tools. He was something to watch when he put it all together, but he struggled to do so on a daily basis.
His DUI and suspension to end the season was a mental lapse, and didn’t have to do with his play, but it kept him out of what would have been his first NCAA Tournament appearance. It was a bitter way to end his career and significantly hurt his team. Mizzou scored a season-low 54 points and got bounced by Florida State without their second-leading scorer on the floor.
Still, Barnett put together the best season of his career was an instrumental part of the Tigers’ turnaround campaign.
Josh Matejka: It would be easy to overthink this... but there’s still no way to ignore that Barnett’s scoring ability was his greatest asset this year. Via insane athleticism and a shot that went from “below average” to “great,” Barnett represented a consistent threat that opponents had to watch, even when he was cold. Barnett’s shooting was obviously his biggest contribution, but he also had a sneaky ability to cut to the rim while off the ball, meaning other coaches had to stick a capable defender on him at the risk of getting burned. He had a tendency to disappear for long stretches - sometimes even whole games - but that doesn’t discount that he also played a key role in putting away a lot of victories and pulling Missouri back into a few more.
Unfortunately, this season will always have an asterisk on it. As Sam said above, the DUI shouldn’t be the defining moment of Barnett’s career: he joined a program in the doldrums and gave fans a lot of hope for the future. He was also a local kid who - after a brief foray into Texas - decided to play his best years close to home. But there’s no way to escape that Barnett wasn’t there for his team when it needed him most. He made a bad decision that not only cost him the opportunity to fulfill a dream, but also affected his team’s ability to perform at its best on the biggest stage. We shouldn’t define Barnett as a player or a man by that decision. His performance this season, though, doesn’t get the same amount of grace.
As Carrington Harrison wrote before the Tournament, “life is about learning from your mistakes.” Barnett will have the ability to learn from his mistake moving forward. It’s just unfortunate he won’t get to do it in a Missouri uniform, because he was a lot of fun to watch.
Chris Bohkay: Going into the season, the expectation was that the offense would flow through MPJ, giving opportunities to the other players in that lineup to pick up scoring chances through ball movement and spot up shots. That all changed obviously once MPJ had his backeotomy.
Thankfully, Barnett emerged as a three point threat, hitting 41% of his shots from deep for the season. Match that with what Kassius was able to do, and you had a pair of guys who could shoot Mizzou back into and ahead in any game. Without Barnett’s emergence as a three point threat, Mizzou would not have made the NCAA tournament. He would throw in an occasional clunker here and there - thinking Ole Miss and Georgia in the SEC tournament - that would have Mizzou fans scratching their heads at his play. His defense also improved as the season wound down and started showing signs of a well-rounded player. And of all the thing(s?) Corey Tate did on Mizzou’s staff, bringing Barnett home was his shining moment.
But we can’t talk Barnett without discussing how it all ended. We all know what happened: Jordan went out, had a few drinks too many, got a DWI, and was suspended for the NCAA tournament the day after a miserable showing in St. Louis to open Mizzou’s post season play. Would his presence have made a difference against FSU? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know. What we do know is that Mizzou went from thin to super skinny on the bench, and players that would not have been playing ended up either playing more minutes than expected, or playing at all. As a result, his season and tenure reads as incomplete. This goes on the “what if” list for Mizzou basketball in 2017-2018. What if Blake Harris is more of a team player and doesn’t quit? What if MPJ doesn’t get hurt? What if CJ Roberts sticks around? What if Jordan Barnett calls for a ride...
Catch up on the rest of our postseason player analysis pieces: