Ever since his arrival in Columbia last year, Jordan Geist has been the player Missouri fans love to argue about. While many are frustrated by his instigator, mix-it-up style, others are higher on his energy and on-court passion (search “#GeistHive” on Twitter and try to count how many times Rock M’s Tramel Raggs comes up.) And while most probably figured he would struggle to see the floor under Cuonzo Martin’s new-look roster, Geist instead changed the narrative.
#15 Jordan Geist
6'2" 180 lbs
Maybe the most insightful quote came from Coach Martin after the game against Stephen F. Austin in December.
“Geist is a guy I’d take in the back alley with me.”
What Cuonzo Martin would be going into back alleys for and why he would need reinforcements, I do not know. Regardless, Geist’s reputation as a scrapper clearly appealed to the hard-nosed coach from East St. Louis, and Geist was able to play his way into the starting point guard role. Yes, the extreme lack of backcourt depth probably made Geist’s role more of a necessity than a choice, but Geist nonetheless stepped in and gave Missouri a lot of minutes.
Geist started the year as a polarizing role player and ended it as… a polarizing starter. Did he do enough this year to change your perception of him?
Sam Snelling: Geist changed my opinion of him in some ways, and not so much in others. For me, I was never a super-hater of Geist's ability as a player. I did think he was limited athletically and not overly skilled but thought his effort level made up for it enough to find a role on the team. My biggest issue with Geist was the role he played as an instigator with what I’ve always called, “fake hustle.” Jason Sutherland was a huge fan favorite, and I never liked him because he did the same thing. Geist still had his moments where he instigated and flopped and caused a commotion with the other team, but he was much more reserved this year. I appreciated that.
What I appreciated about Geist this season was his ability to fill in and do what was needed, even if he was limited in his ability. Geist isn’t a point guard; he’s a combo guard. He’s not a guy who should be starting or playing starters minutes, but he was required to by way of attrition, and for his effort, he should be admired. Geist performed better in his role (for the most part -- he still had some severe moments of breakdown, but so did everyone who handled the ball this season) than I and probably most of you expected. I think he’s got a solid role on this team next year for sure, but I do think Cuonzo Martin should be looking for a better primary ball handler to take over that role if possible.
Matt Harris: Last fall, I chatted with someone who knew Jordan well and had touched base with the staff about him. “They love him,” they said. “Cuonzo wants a guy who's not afraid to stir the shit.” So it made sense when Martin proclaimed he’d be cool taking Geist into an alley to attend to some business cracking skulls. By now every SEC team knows Geist claims squatter’s rights inside their guys’ heads. And that impulse is going to have you chucking the remote a couple times a game.
But look at Geist’s work during SEC action. He ranked 14th in assist rate (22.4), ninth in free-throw rate (52.9) and sported a 106.9 offensive rating. For the year, he posted 1.048 points per possession on trips where he attacked out of pick-and-rolls and dished the ball off, with MU posting a 53.6 effective-field-goal percentage on those trips, according to Synergy Sports. He also rated out well as the ball handler in transition (1.25 PPP) and, until conference play, could hit spot-up 3-pointers with consistency.
Plenty of folks will remember questionable decisions against Florida, Arkansas, West Virginia and the debacle against Ole Miss, but Geist performed admirably in a role where he was an unlikely understudy. During Missouri’s surge in early February, he quietly put together stellar outings against Alabama (135 ORtg), Ole Miss (210) and Mississippi State (156) to help the Tigers push their way to an at-large bid.
I don’t know if Geist will ever ditch perceptions. They’re too ingrained now. But he showcased last year that he can be a potential option as a secondary handler in games that matter. Moving into next season, it’ll be interesting to see whether Martin, who might import some more help on the perimeter, sticks with Geist in that role.
Tashan Reed: With all of the talent coming to Columbia this summer, few expected Jordan Geist to end up being the starter in the most crucial moments of the year. This was done out of necessity, but Geist vastly improved from last year. He jumped 10% on two-pointers and 8% on three-pointers while averaging 7.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. If nothing else, you could count on Geist to annoy the hell out of whoever he was defending.
Geist had some really good moments (dropping 28 on Green Bay,) but also had some horrid, miserable, nightmarish performances: four turnovers and fouling out in the West Virginia meltdown, six turnovers against Stephen F. Austin, and four turnovers with zero points or assists against Illinois. He definitely earned my respect this year off of his effort alone, but he has to become more confident and take care of the ball if he wants to keep a prominent role in the rotation.
Josh Matejka: I just went back and looked at all my tweets about Jordan Geist from this past year. Jordan, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry. Please don’t come find me and beat me up.
I was a Geist critic to start the year as I was really high on CJ Roberts and Blake Harris, and I didn’t see the need to play a guy who couldn’t get starter’s minutes for Kim Anderson. Luckily, I’m just a guy with a computer, and Cuonzo is the one with the clipboard. Geist slowly and surely changed my general opinion of him throughout the year, so much so that I felt the need to write an apology/appreciation piece. While I’m still not convinced Missouri is best served with Geist as the primary ball handler, Geist did do enough to make me think he warrants playing time moving forward as a combo guard. In one offseason, Geist made significant jumps in his True Shooting, effective FG, and three-point shooting percentages. And while his per game numbers didn’t change too much, he was also going up against each team’s top unit night in and night out.
Am I now the biggest fan of Jordan Geist’s style of play? No. But I can say admire his tenacity, and I’m more than willing - maybe even excited? - to see how he fits in with this program moving forward.
Chris Bohkay: I would say that my perception of Geist shifted from the narrative that Kim Anderson et al. wanted to push about Geist last year (pest, scrappy, grinder, lunch box carrier, you know, all the words announcers and others use to describe players like Geist) to the guy that stuck around and did the best that he could with the tools available at his disposal. He’s not a point guard, yet he took that role because no one else could or would. Fans will remember the end-of-game situations where he couldn’t handle the pressure put upon him, because well he’s not a ball handler. Beating the press isn’t something he’s trained to do. Mizzou fans will blame him for mistakes against WVU and Florida, but that’s too simple and lazy.
Geist gets my respect for what he did, and he clearly gained the trust of Cuonzo. And in Cuonzo I trust. I’m hoping he can move back to his natural off-ball position. But if he is thrust back into the position of bringing up the ball and leading the offense, I hope he spends the offseason working on breaking the press and working on his passing game. He showed from the previous year that he could improve his shooting touch dramatically. Perhaps he can do the same with his ball handling skills.
Catch up on the rest of our postseason player analysis pieces: