Welcome to the 2016-2017 season of Mizzou basketball as we look towards a brighter future (hopefully) of Kim Anderson men and ONLY Kim Anderson men.
As we did last year, we’ve gone away from previewing each individual on the roster in their own post, but instead moving towards a position primer. We’re going new school with the position descriptions: point guards, combo guards, wings, combo forwards and posts. Out are the days of the shooting guard or small forward, recognizing we are all multitudes and that includes basketball players as well
We’re starting our preseason preview with the little guys, the ball handlers, the guys who stir the drink, who distribute and dish, who make the Mizzou basketball engine go. Let’s take a look at the point guards populating this year’s roster and also, take a moment to remember the point guards who have moved on. Gone are Wes Clark (dismissed or quit dependent upon who you believe) and Tramaine Isabell (to Drexel) and in is Jordan Geist from Ranger College and every Mizzou fans favorite university ambassador, Terrence Phillips.
Terrence Phillips is exactly who we thought he was: a hardworking, leave-it-all-on-the-hardwood floor general. From the day he stepped on campus, Phillips was the unquestioned leader and face of the program. Whether Phillips was jumping over tables while chasing after loose balls or stealing rebounds from much larger opponents, fans instantly became enamored by his energy. However, at the end of the day, the team only won 10 of their 31 games. Unfortunately for the Tigers, this isn’t baseball so a 30% success rate isn’t good enough.
So what can the point guards do to help right the ship? It’s actually quite simple.
• Terrence Phillips has to make better decisions with the ball: There were too many times last season where Phillips tried to do too much on offense. While he proved to be a better shooter than many expected, Phillips took far too many bad shots. There were also several occasions where Phillips would force the ball to players that weren’t open or over-dribbled in an attempt to make a flashy play, which ultimately led to turnovers.
• Stay out of foul trouble: We know that Phillips' unbelievable athleticism allows him to take chances because, more times than not, he is able to recover if things don't work out. However, for Missouri to display real improvement, the Tigers need Phillips to show more discipline on the defensive end. He has found himself on the bench far too often during critical stretches due to foul trouble.
• Jordan Geist needs to be a dependable back-up: Geist is a bit of an unknown right now. Geist, a juco transfer from Ranger College (Texas), is said to have a great ability to score the basketball and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. This is exactly what Missouri needs. More importantly, Geist needs to show that he can be a capable ball handler that can run the offense. While no one expects Geist to take any time from Terrence Phillips, Geist should have a solid role in Missouri’s rotation, especially if Cullen VanLeer and KJ Walton continue to struggle. Geist should allow Phillips more opportunities to rest, which will help Phillips’ efficiency rise. If Geist can do those things, Missouri will improve dramatically.
At the end of the day, Missouri will only go as far as Terrence Phillips takes them. We can expect Phillips to be more efficient with Geist backing him up. Last year, Tramaine Isabell had plenty of talent, but he couldn’t stay out of the doghouse with Kim Anderson, leaving Phillips to play more minutes than Anderson would have liked. If Geist is able to play at a level that allows for Phillips to catch some much-needed relief throughout the game, Missouri will be in a good spot.
The growth of Terrence Phillips from last year is paramount to the success of this team. They need him to do more than he did a year ago. Phillips was a nice surprise offensively, we expected he be pretty solid on defense, we expected he’d facilitate a lot and probably rack up a fair amount of assists. What we didn’t expect was the shooting. Phillips proved himself to be a more than adequate shooter. And Missouri needs him to do more.
Behind Phillips is anyone’s guess. Jordan Geist has been tabbed as the backup Point Guard and a guy with an outside shot to start off the ball. It’s intriguing because Geist doesn’t play like a natural ball handler, he’s an attacker from the word go and those guys work best off the ball. It’s possible Cullen VanLeer factors in here as well, as will Frankie Hughes. But from the word go this team will be Terrence Phillips to run, and he’ll take them as far as he can.
Kim Anderson from day one has expressed a strong desire to have multiple capable ball handlers to ensure that his system runs can be as efficient as possible. With just two lead guards on the team, that could prove difficult unless one of the combo guards currently on the roster can step up and bring the ball up court. This is where the loss of Clark and TI could be felt this season.
Looking back to last year, Terrence Phillips had a lovely freshman season that had the highs and the lows one would expect from a first-year lead guard. He tended to get into foul trouble both due to the amount of minutes he had to play and the fact that his opposite across the floor was typically faster and quicker with the ball than what he saw in high school, leading to more reach in fouls and your typical ticky-tack hand check call. In his first year, the expectation was the TP would provide valuable passing and vision and leadership on the floor, but we were also gifted with glimpses of not just a pass first, pass second, but a scorer as well. As everyone who watched last season, scoring was again an issue, and finding that TP could fill the score sheet outside of assists and the occasional long rebound.
With year two I think we can expect to see more of what we liked from Phillips, great leadership, less fouls on the outside as he has caught up to the speed of the game and a reliable shooter when Mizzou goes into those shooting funks that every team does at some point during games.
New to the squad this year is Jordan Geist from Ranger College who due to the attrition at the point will be looked at to spell Terrence Phillips away from his more natural role as an off guard. There is the possibility that we see both TP and Geist on the floor at the same time, giving Kim Anderson some options. However it’s more likely we see him giving TP a break. When Geist made his announcement his coach at Ranger (former Kentucky and Texas Tech Coach Gillespie) had nothing but the highest of praise for him citing his ability to score, lead and work harder than anyone else while on the court. Honestly, the kid looks and sounds like just the kind of player Kim Anderson likes and wants to form the backbone of this team. Geist will mostly be looked at to distribute the ball and spell Phillips who will still be the starting PG for as long as he’s at Mizzou and playing basketball. One thing to watch, is his scoring, is he getting to the basket and drawing defenders away from the combo guards and forwards on the wings? Is he opening scoring lanes in a meaningful way to allow Mizzou to move in a positive scoring direction and keeping Mizzou in games that the past two years they have not. No pressure Jordan, none at all…
Up next we’ll preview the combo guards where Mizzou is rich in players AND experience...