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Mizzou Hoops Player Review: Ronnie DeGray III

The crafty positionless forward departed without much fanfare after not seeing the floor for the final 16 games.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

One of the few holdovers from the Cuonzo Martin era, Ronnie DeGray was one of just three players who committed to Martin and stuck around to play for Dennis Gates. The Gates-DeGray Marriage didn’t last very long.

After playing in just 17 games, DeGray entered the transfer portal on March 30th. DeGray arrived following an NCAA Tournament trip and was one of the few efficient players in an otherwise abysmal season in 2021-22. That season he appeared in all 32 games, but started only four times. Conversely he started more games under Dennis Gates (8) despite playing more than 10 minutes just six times out of those 17 appearances.

I’ve always been a fan of DeGray. I have a soft spot for crafty players whose knowledge of the game supersedes their talent level. It’s because of DeGray’s craftiness that I thought he could carve a role on this team. For a while it was looking like that could be the case. After being parked for much of the first 10 games, DeGray was inserted into the starting lineup for the game against UCF. His appearance jump started Mizzou’s run through UCF, Illinois and then Kentucky.

With DeGray on the floor in those games, the offense hummed. The defense wasn’t great, but DeGray’s commitment to defense and rebounding gave them a boost. The boost didn’t last long. DeGray slid out of the rotation, then a knee injury summarily ended his season.

By the numbers

Ronnie DeGray | By The Numbers

Games Starts %Min ORtg Usage%
Games Starts %Min ORtg Usage%
17 8 11.7 118.1 12.2
9.8 2.1 1.8 0.2 0.5
  • 1.30 PPP

That was the offensive output when DeGray was on the floor for 78 minutes over three games in December. He only took 10 shots over 3 games, but he did score 15 points on those shots, and used his instincts to move the ball to the right spots. I mentioned above about Ronnie’s intelligence on the floor. He was the right guy at that moment, and then the moment passed.

Ronnie DeGray III | On/Off Splits | 2022-23

Status Poss Margin Off. PPP Def. PPP Net Rating eFG% ORB% FT Rate TOV% PPS - RIM PPS - Mid PPP - 3FGA
Status Poss Margin Off. PPP Def. PPP Net Rating eFG% ORB% FT Rate TOV% PPS - RIM PPS - Mid PPP - 3FGA
On 268 -13 108.64 113.5 -4.86 50 28.4 18.8 12.8 1.07 0.67 1.01
Off 2078 171 118.91 110.68 8.22 55.7 26 22.5 14.4 1.2 0.82 1.09
Pivot Analysis

It might sound impolite or cruel, but DeGray’s second and last season in Columbia saw him serve as a bridge.

Almost half of his minutes came as Mizzou wound down non-conference play, and after MU knocked off Kentucky, the junior only played 41 minutes in the next outings. Then, he sat out the remaining 16 games with a lingering knee injury. Practically speaking, Mohammed Diarra moved into his role during a road loss at Texas A&M.

So, the pool of minutes and possessions is miniscule. But that limited sample illustrates DeGray’s bind. As a sophomore, he earned his keep by rebounding and finishing plays around the rim. Yet when he checked in, it barely made a dent on the backboards, his usage rate was so low (12.2%) that it couldn’t halt sagging efficiency from close range.

There were occasional flashes, a brief audition in the starting five, and some garbage-time points in a Braggin’ Rights victory. Yet DeGray could never quite put together a compelling case for a larger role. What he did was help MU buy a few more weeks before trotting out Diarra as part of the rotation.

Ronnie DeGray III | Top-5 Lineups | 2022-23

PG CG Wing Wing/CF CF/Post Poss Margin Off. PPP Def. PPP Net
PG CG Wing Wing/CF CF/Post Poss Margin Off. PPP Def. PPP Net
Honor Gomillion Hodge Brown, Ko. DeGray 54 8 119 104.12 14.87
Honor Hodge Gholston Brown, Ko. DeGray 29 28 167.89 69.95 97.94
Honor East Gholston Brown, Ko. DeGray 22 -10 116.83 161.77 -44.94
Honor East Gholston DeGray Carter 8 -4 106.56 159.84 -53.29
Honor Hodge Gholston DeGray Carter 8 2 126.1 100.88 25.22
Pivot Analysis

Based on this quintet of lineups, you might wonder how DeGray found himself on the outside looking in. Surround him with four other starters, and the results – from an efficiency perspective – aren’t bad at plus-19.8 points per 100 possessions.

But the dropoff came quickly. The other 18 lineups where DeGray played the five had a minus-18 scoring margin, and the Tigers were minus-24 in his 75 minutes at combo forward. Not all of the responsibility falls on DeGray, obviously, but the tradeoffs required to play him weren’t exactly tenable.

For one, you were parking Kobe Brown or Noah Carter, taking offense off the floor. Brown and Carter also had stylistic overlap with DeGray, in that they could operate at the elbows, set up in the mid-post, and pop after setting screens. They just happened to carry out those roles more efficiently.

And while defensive analytics are a big squishy, DeGray graded out relatively poorly by allowing 1.130 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports tracking data. And finally, his rebounding rates lagged behind Diarra. No doubt, DeGray’s development cultivated a high-IQ and flexible player, but chances to showcase that ability became scarce for a reason.

The injury ultimately resolved the matter, but it was getting harder to make an affirmative case that DeGray deserved more run. Reallocating his minutes allowed the staff to get a prolonged assessment of Diarra’s viability or parcel out PT to a high-upside freshman in Aidan Shaw.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It was a surprise last year when DeGray didn’t enter the transfer portal. After all, everyone else did. In hindsight, maybe he should have. And not because anyone wanted him gone, but moreso because it felt inevitable.

DeGray wasn’t an elitely skilled player who could create his own offense. He wasn’t an elite shooter who could stretch the floor. And he wasn’t an elite athlete who could overwhelm opponents. He’s just a good player who knows how to play the game. He’s tough, he rebounds and defends. He’s, as I said above, crafty.

But he wasn’t a great fit on the already undersized roster. He wasn’t going to displace an All SEC player in Kobe Brown at the four, and on a roster loaded with guards it was tough to get minutes at the three. So what was left were minutes at the five. Right when Mohamed Diarra was starting to catch on a bit.

And that’s not even determining the extent of the knee injury he was dealing with. It wasn’t serious enough for the team to think he was done for the season, and there was no real information released. But either way the minutes were scarce in the middle of the schedule. I think DeGray could have helped more, and he probably would have if he was a little more consistent of a shooter since Mizzou really needed a guy to help space the floor. One of the games which saw Gates trust in DeGray wane a bit was when Arkansas refused to defend him on offense. DeGray played more than 10 minutes in a game just once after that game.

I don’t know where DeGray goes from here. He’s a Colorado native, so perhaps somewhere back west. The Mountain West has seen some turnover, but he’s a good player. He just needs to find the right system.