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Missouri Hoops Player Review: Jordan Geist

Geist turned himself into a borderline All-SEC player this season, completing the full turnaround from “junior college transfer” to “fan favorite.”

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

Happy Friday, y’all. Today, we’re wrapping up our series of postseason player reviews for the college basketball year gone by. We’ve done thorough statistical and narrative dives on each scholarship player on Missouri’s roster, with the exception of Dru Smith and partial walk-on Ronnie Suggs. You can find all of those below.

We’re capping off our reviews with the MVP of last year’s season, a player who started off as a source of angst and became one Tiger fans will likely be missing in the ensuing years — Jordan Geist.

Jordan Geist - Regular Stats

2018-19 32 33.8 14.8 4.6 3.0 53.6 35.3 75.8
2017-18 33 26.1 7.3 3.8 2.9 51.9 37.5 70.0
2016-17 32 22.1 7 3 2 41.9 28.6 75.5

Jordan Geist - Advanced Stats*

Season %MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
Season %MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
2018-19 83.7 112.8 16.7 23.1 1.03 (+0.07) 0.98 (+0.07) 53.3 57.3
2017-18 65.8 109.5 17.1 1.07 (-0.01) 1.03 (-0.09) 54.2 58.2
2016-17 54.8 98.8 18.5 0.96 (-0.02) 1.00 (+0.05) 42.3 49.6

Geist had a breakout year as Missouri’s starting point guard. How did Geist improve his game so much in the span of three years at Missouri?

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: That’s a good question. Geist was fortunate in a lot of ways, but more than anything he was just doggedly determined to improve himself as a player.

He got lucky because Mizzou hired the perfect coach for him, and put him in an offense which would help him become the best version of himself. He was asked to do more than he could this past year and I think in someways the elevated expectations made him play better than he would have normally.

Other than that, Geist’s craftiness in a super athletic league allowed him to excel because he wasn’t the norm. Most the players who defended him weren’t accustomed to facing a multitude of pump fakes and pivots, or the energy he brought most nights. Geist was facing against type and his uniqueness allowed him to flourish.

Last I want to talk about his maturity, because it deserves mention. Jordan really matured over the years and became a wisened veteran. He was still prone to an occasional flop or technical foul but they were more strategic then they were in his sophomore year. Jordan learned to hone his gift of irritant and used it much more sparingly, which made it far more effective when he unleashed it. Jordan did a great job of irritating younger (and more talented) guards into mistakes and often took them out of the game mentally. Worrying more about Geist then they did running their team. It didn’t net a bunch of wins, but it made Mizzou far more competitive than they would have been otherwise.

Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: Geist isn’t a point guard by trade, but circumstances and scheme made him a viable one for Missouri. MU doesn’t run an isolation heavy system where it clears out a side of the floor and lets Geist go to work. Its offense doesn’t require creator. Instead, it’s optimized by facilitator who makes a good read at the right time, and when the moment requires it, can take it upon himself to put pressure on the defense.

This season, Geist ranked eighth in the SEC in the number of possessions that ended with a pass out of a pick-and-roll but finished four in efficiency (0.931 PPP), ahead of Jared Harper, Kira Lewis Jr., Terence Davis, Andrew Nembhard and Ashton Hagans. Almost 78 percent of those possessions were run out of high ball-screen sets. Take a look at his handiwork.

Jordan Geist | High Pick-and-Roll Passes - 2018-19

Play Type Poss PPP eFG%
Play Type Poss PPP eFG%
Roll Man 32 0.984 56.5
Spot-up Shooter 82 1.031 63
Cutter 10 1.6 80
Turnover/Foul 11 0.364 -
Overall 135 0.933 56.5
Synergy Sports

That’s Geist in a nutshell: using the structure of the offense as a platform. No, he doesn’t make the highlight-reel pass that Pinson’s capable off, but the ball gets to the right man in the right place and at the right time.

Meanwhile, spotting up didn’t involve simply settling for a jumper. Half the time, Geist put the ball on the floor and attacked a defender closing out or caught the defense in rotation. And if he got cut off on his way to the paint, he could use footwork and spatial awareness to wriggle loose and finish.

Jordan Geist | Spot-Ups - 2018-19

Play Type Poss PPP eFG%
Play Type Poss PPP eFG%
Jumper 57 1.1333 64.3
Dribble Jumper 27 0.667 33.3
Runner 4 2 100
To Basket 15 1.133 45.5
Turnover/Foul 9 0.556 -
Overall 112 1.107 55.1
Synergy Sports

On the defensive end, he excelled at closing out and recovering when targeted in pick-and-rolls, only allowing 35 shots — or roughly one attempt per game — near the rim. More often than not, his man would settle for a contested jumper in the middle of the floor, a hallmark of MU’s defense.

All of this underscores a central point: there was a timely fusion between Geist’s work ethic, Martin’s system and what he values in a player. A couple years ago, Geist’s grassroots coach told me that he spoke to Martin soon after the coach arrived in Columbia. In the wake of player meetings, it was evident who he wanted to keep. “He’s damn tough,” Martin told him.

In profile after profile this season, the same theme kept cropping up: Geist’s fear of failure and not measuring up willed him to outwork others. Over time, the pressure he applied on himself yielded a glittering product — and Martin offered the perfect setting to put it on display.

Josh Matejka, Editor: There are two people that should take credit for Geist’s rise from, “ill-considered transfer,” to, “fan favorite” — Cuonzo Martin and Geist himself.

Martin’s offense isn’t too flashy and doesn’t require a hyper-athletic point guard to make plays, so Geist was able to slot in and use his basketball smarts to create shots for himself and others. Geist would also have a harder time at schools with a more rapid pace of play, but Martin’s preferred style — dictating the pace by hard-nosed defense and efficient offense — fit right into Geist’s wheelhouse.

None of that matters, though, if Geist doesn’t have the initiative to improve himself as a player. Geist improved on the court in just about every way possible: he went from a 28.6 percent three point shooter to 35 percent in his senior year; his assist and steal rates went up while his turnover percentage — excusing last year’s non-conference play — remained in the mid-teens; his effective field goal and true shooting percentages improved appreciably as he became more of an offensive priority. In every way you could hope, Geist continued to improve every year he was in Columbia. That’s a testament to his work ethic more than anything else.

How will — and how should — Missouri fans remember Geist?

Sam Snelling: I’m not sure how to answer this question because I don’t know how many fans who were turned off by Geist’s early antics returned to love the player he became? People’s attitudes and opinions are far more hardened and static than they used to be and there are still a fair amount of people out there who look at Jordan as more part of the problem, without realizing he was working to build the solution.

I admit to have a big distaste for Geist as a sophomore. He began to win me over through the middle of the season last year as a lot of fans continued to murder him for his play, when I felt he was turning a big corner. He became less turnover prone and more opportunistic as a scorer, I didn’t expect him to turn into an all-SEC level guard but I saw the makings of what he would become as a senior. The game slowed down for him.

If Cuonzo Martin builds a big winner on the backs of guys like Mark Smith and Torrence Watson in the coming years, I think most can look at this past year as a key turning point. When tough losses created thicker skin and Jordan Geist helped show the young guys the way forward. Geist, and Kevin Puryear as well, provided the leadership and knowledge for a young team and where the program goes from here will be impacted by what they accomplished during their time at Mizzou. Hopefully that’s a step towards something much bigger.

Matt Harris: It’s still early in Martin’s tenure, but Geist distills the essence of what the program can be: tough, savvy and consistent. (We saw that trend continue this season with Javon Pickett, who earned minutes living in the gym.) Obviously, Missouri fans are hoping Martin’s recruitment yields elite talent in the program’s backyard, but it’s evident he’s also willing to bet on guys who are grinders and don’t let their effort ebb.

I don’t think Geist fundamentally changed from the guy who only a few years ago needed to be held back by assistant coach Steve Shields at Stegeman Coliseum. He’s still a guy who understands who to burrow his way under an opponent’s skin. The only difference is he has a coach who understands how to moderate and channel that energy. By last season, the fanbase warmed to him — even if there were moments against West Virginia and Florida that drew some ire. Now? He and Puryear occupy the same plane of high esteem.

Josh Matejka: Hopefully with a little humility. I know I’ve had to eat my fair share of crow with Geist over the past few years.

Geist drew a lot of fan ire that probably could have been attributed to the coach that brought him to Missouri. In his sophomore year, he appeared to exemplify everything that was wrong about the Kim Anderson era. However, Geist stepped up to the challenge of a new coach and system and became the player Anderson probably saw in, but was unable to draw out of, him. Without Geist, Missouri likely doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year due to a lack of point guard. And without Geist, this past year looks a whole hell of a lot worse than 14-16. In all that, Geist instead showed fans that he was more of an avatar for Cuonzo Martin than Kim Anderson. For that, he should be viewed as just as much of a foundational piece as a four-year guy like Kevin Puryear.

*Advanced Stats explainer:

%MIN — The number of minutes played in comparison to the total number of minutes available to be played. E.g. 30 minutes played in a 40 minute game would be 75%

ORtg — Individual offensive rating or points scored based upon a player accounting for the ending of 100 possessions (through shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers). This number comes from KenPom and it weighted to adjust for pace and opponent.

Adj GmSc — Adjusted GameScore, from Study Hall the accumulation of the players game score throughout the season

Poss% — Also referred to as Usage, it’s the number of possessions a player ends (via shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers) while on the court.

Lineup O/D +/- — This is the offensive and defensive points per possession when the player is on the court, the parenthesis reflects if lineups were better or worse with them on the floor (+ is if lineups were better with them on the floor, - is if lineups were worse)

eFG% — Effective Field Goal Percentage Adjusts shooting percentage for three point attempts. The formula is FGM + (.5 x 3PM) / FGA

TS% — True Shooting Percentage adjusts for both shooting percentage divided by total points scored. Traditionally the formula is (Points / 2 x (FGA + (0.44 x FTA)) x 100. We used KenPomeroy’s FT modifier of 0.475 instead of the NBA modifier of 0.44.