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What each returning Mizzou MBB player can do to improve his draft stock

Four players return that received significant minutes last season, each with something to prove.

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

From a Missouri team that stunned the nation by finishing fourth in the SEC regular season standings and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed, four players with significant experience will return.

The losses of Kobe Brown, D’Moi Hodge, DeAndre Gholston, Mohamed Diarra and Tre Gomillion leave plenty of holes to fill, both in terms of on-court ability and off-court leadership.

There is plenty of production that needs to be replaced next season, and while some new faces from the transfer portal and freshman class can make a dent in it, the returning players have the best opportunity to see their roles expand as a result. To do so, each of them will need to make strides in improving their respective games this offseason.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Noah Carter

Power Forward | Senior

2022-23 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 21.9 MPG (minutes per game), 49.4% FG, 32.2% 3PT

The Key: Consistently be able to drive past larger defenders and become a more balanced scorer.

The transfer from Northern Iowa provided a more-than positive impact for the Tigers last season. Carter brought electric energy to every game, hyping up the crowd with thunderous dunks, pivotal 3-point shots and plenty of emotional celebrations.

After a 28-point performance against Penn in the second game of the season, many people expected Carter to be one of the main scoring contributors on the team. While he remained a quality rotational piece, Carter never eclipsed the 20-point mark again, and he struggled mightily in the middle of the season. He rebounded to score 10 or more in seven of the team’s final eight games, but it certainly felt like Carter left more on the table.

He now enters year two of his time in Columbia, a make-or-break season for the fifth-year player. Although Carter shot a modest 32% from behind the arc last season, he more than proved that he can consistently knock down shots against Penn, LSU (14 pts) and Ole Miss (17 pts). Now, Carter needs to show that he can be a versatile scorer on the offensive end. That includes being able to slash into the paint against the bigger defenders that he tends to face as an undersized four/five, as well as being able to be effective in post-up action. He showed flashes of being proficient in both of those regards last season, but he needs to be more consistent.

118 of Carter’s 243 shots came from 3-point land last season. I’d like to see that number go down to 80-90 and instead see the Dubuque native work more in the painted area.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Princeton vs Missouri Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Honor

Point Guard | Senior

2022-23 Stats: 7.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 29.9 APG, 40.3% FG, 39.9% 3PT

The Key: Establish himself as the bona fide leader of this team and manage the offense at a high level.

The honorable Nick Honor provided Mizzou fans with plenty of memorable moments last season. From sinking five 3-pointers at Georgia to hitting the game-winning shot over MSU’s Tolu Smith in overtime, it’s easy to see why Honor already has a cult-like following amongst the Mizzou student body.

The Clemson transfer solidified himself as the No. 1 point guard on the team early in the season, and he never looked back, starting every single game. It’s hard to ask Honor to do much more in 2023-24, but he is certainly capable of it.

First and foremost, as a sixth-year college basketball player, there is not much that Honor hasn’t seen. Therefore, he should be relied upon to be a leader, especially in late-game scenarios when the team needs a calming presence that it may have received from Brown or Hodge last season. Honor will also likely be charged with getting a lot of the new transfers and freshmen up-to-speed within the Dennis Gates offense, a task that should not be too challenging for him given Gates and others see him as a future coach.

In terms of on-the-court performance, Honor just needs to put forth an efficient and productive season as a floor general. His stat line from a season ago is nothing to scoff at, but all of those numbers should be bumped up in 2023-24. Honor could easily be a double-digit scorer while maintaining/improving upon his 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. NBA scouts will want to see Honor be a stabilizing force for the Tigers while continuing to showcase his stroke from the perimeter.

Another point worth nothing regarding Honor: While he was only the fifth leading scorer on the team last season, he led in average minutes player per game. What does that mean? Gates trusts him to stay steady throughout games and to take care of the ball in crunch time.

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

Aidan Shaw

Small Forward | Sophomore

2022-23 Stats: 2.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.1 APG, 10.6 MPG, 56.3% FG, 28.6% 3PT

The Key: Become more physical on the glass and in the painted area while improving the perimeter shot.

On a deep and experienced roster, the prized jewel of the 2022 Missouri basketball recruiting class managed to carve out a niche for himself. Shaw appeared in 32 games as a true freshman with Mizzou and started against Alabama and Ole Miss. While he did not provide a ton of production on the offensive end, Shaw’s athleticism and high-energy was hard to keep off the court, and he became a fan favorite with his acrobatic dunks throughout the season.

Shaw is merely scratching the surface of his potential at the collegiate level, and his decision to remain at Mizzou when he could have transferred means that both he and Gates are prepared for a multi-year development process. 2022-23 was all about learning the collegiate game and the SEC. Now, Shaw is expected to take what he learned in year one and build off of it, becoming a more productive and confident member of the team.

While he will likely not be a prolific scorer right off the bat, Shaw can certainly make major improvements in other areas. On multiple occasions last season, Gates called Shaw out for not being physical or productive enough on the boards in certain games, which he said cost the freshman some minutes. At 6-foot-8 with an absurd vertical, Shaw should have no issue stealing rebounds away from bigger players. If he can add some weight this offseason while maintaining his athletic ability, Shaw would certainly be capable of reeling in five-to-six boards per game.

On top of that, he needs to be more aggressive when he has the ball down low. While he will rarely be the tallest player in the painted area, Shaw’s wingspan and jumping ability give him an advantage in being able to get around defenders to the rim. Again, added weight may also help him move some bodies that he previously was not able to, but he needs to prove that he is more than just a lob-catcher on the offensive end.

All that you want to see from a sophomore is noticeable improvement from their freshman season. With a larger frame and more confidence, Shaw should be able to do just that on both ends of the floor as he continues to build towards his years as an upperclassman.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Princeton vs Missouri Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sean East II

Point Guard | Senior

2022-23 Stats: 7.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 23.4 MPG, 44.4% FG, 22.1% 3PT

The Key: Play like the creative, unpredictable guard that he is night-in and night-out.

The craftiest and perhaps most entertaining player to watch on the Missouri roster only averaged 7.3 points per game last season, but he played his role well. For better or worse, East kept Mizzou fans on the edge of their seats with his one-handed cross court passes and ambitious drives to the rim. More often than not, it worked out for East, and it became common knowledge that that is just the way the former Bradley Brave plays.

East has a gift to see certain angles and passes on the floor that most other players do not. That can be a great thing, but it can also be misused. While he made some incredible offensive plays throughout the year, East recored 53 turnovers (third-worst on the team), which likely caused him to remain as a secondary option to Honor at the point guard spot. Cutting down on those mistakes is a must for East in 2023-24.

However, by no means does that imply that he should change his play style. East is a unique basketball player that is gifted with the ball in his hands. There’s very few defenders in the country that can contain him one-on-one on the perimeter, and there are even fewer player who can match his speed in the open floor. Combine that with his ability to create shots in the painted area (especially that deadly floater game) and his 47 steals from a season ago, and you have a reliable all-around player. If he can cut down on mistakes while continuing to play within his game, East should see a boost in his production across the board.