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Mizzou Hoops Player Review: Dru Smith

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The former mid-major transfer had a memorable senior season that landed him First Team All-SEC honors.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Missouri at Oklahoma Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

OK. Fingers-crossed, we’re all done with transfers. At least from the inside-out.

We’re running through our annual practice of reviewing the Mizzou Hoops roster player-by-player. If you’re keeping up with us, you know that we’ve spent all of our time talking about players who no longer don the black-and-gold. Fortunately, we appear to be past the point of attrition and can now spend some time talking about players who are either returning or finished their careers as Tigers. To catch up on our previous posts, you can click the links below.

We’re starting with a player who one could argue has been the best of the Cuonzo Martin era. Former Evansville transfer Dru Smith had an uneven first year in Columbia, but cashed in on nearly all his potential in 2020-2021.

Dru Smith By the Numbers

Season Minutes % Offensive Rating Usage Rate Points % Effective FG % True Shooting % Off. Rebounding % Def. Rebounding % Assist Rate Turnover %
Season Minutes % Offensive Rating Usage Rate Points % Effective FG % True Shooting % Off. Rebounding % Def. Rebounding % Assist Rate Turnover %
2020-2021 84.1 109 21.9 19.5 52.5 57.1 1.4 10 22.7 18.3
2019-2020 81.3 105.2 23.5 18.9 45.4 54.4 4.6 10.7 27.1 21.5

What went well?

When the staff brought in Drew Buggs for some ball-handling help and signaled a stylistic shift to gel with Xavier Pinson’s rim-hunting tendencies, the message was clear to Dru Smith: we need you to score. Dru Smith got the message and responded, becoming Missouri’s most dominant two-way threat of the Cuonzo Martin era. Smith’s offensive rating lept in his senior season due to a number of factors. His three-point shooting returned to Evansville levels, as Smith shot 39.8 percent from deep on the season and 41.9 percent in conference play. His assist rate slightly dipped in non-conference play, but rebounded against SEC opponents. All the while, his turnover rate stayed relatively low while he continued to be one of the most proficient on-ball defenders in the league. There’s a reason Smith was a First Team All-SEC choice — he was damn good.

What didn’t go well?

Not a whole lot! Most of Smith’s numbers took a positive turn in his second year as a Tiger, and he’ll be dearly missed as Missouri’s number one option out of the back court. One small quibble you could make: his increased production from three cut his free throw rate by about 15 percentage points, leading to nearly 50 less shots from the line. Still, you’ll take that trade off when the jump in three-point percentage is as drastic as Smith’s.

Syndication: The Tennessean
Dru Smith turned into an All-SEC player in his senior season, leading the way on both offense and defense.
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In summary...

Dru Smith became a selling point for Cuonzo Martin. Quite literally:

As Martin added two guards transferring in from Mid-Majors he is clearly making this into a thing. And that’s great, you have to pump-up the successes. And Dru’s success is what buoyed Missouri most of the season. While others struggled with consistency Dru was nearly always productive in one way or the other. He was able to impact the game in a variety of ways, most notably on defense. I’m not breaking news here by saying Dru was able to fuel the defense in a lot of ways by limiting the opponents best offensive player, and at the very least make things frustrating.

Replacing his production won’t be easy, but Martin is hoping he can return to the well of the mid-major transfer up to net him the points. Replacing his leadership will be even tougher. Right now Missouri is looking at a much younger roster, and the steadiness of the senior will be missed.