The Missouri Basketball freshman class is on campus and we’re provided short glimpses of their progress via the MizzouHoops Twitter and Instagram accounts. It’s not much, but it’s enough to pique interest.
Whether it’s a scrimmage, a workout, or just lifting weights, the team’s social media profile gives fans a portal into the progress the players are making.
Last week I asked who people thought would play the most minutes with the cut off at just eight players. The good news, from my perspective, is even though we’re all pretty excited about the potential of the freshman class, most voters still think they will be taking a back seat to the transfers.
With the Tigers lack of interior size, Yaya Keita was the leading vote getter of the freshmen, Anton Brookshire was right behind him, and both Trevon Brazile and Sean Durugordon got votes but were well behind. And while Kaleb Brown didn’t register a vote, I’d like to point out that our expectations for his older brother were meager early on as well and he’s been a two-year starter.
So I figured I would track each freshman and try and figure out what could be considered the best case scenario for each guy this season and what player of recent Mizzou history might he most connect with based upon the position.
I guessed Brookshire would average around 20 minutes per game last week, and that’s 50% of the minutes. BartTorkvik.com projects 37% of minutes, or 14.8 minutes per game. Xavier Pinson played 44.2% with an Offensive Rating only around 95. Wes Clark hit 54% of minutes but his Offensive Rating was worse at around 93. Even Marcus Denmon’s minutes were only around 41%, but his offensive rating was closer to 105. Probably the best case scenario is somewhere between Denmon and Michael Dixon, whose 41% of minutes were eclipsed by a 113 Offensive Rating. After looking at these, I feel like I should hedge on the 20 minutes, and drop him down to about 18, and pray his ORtg is over 100.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I really like Brazile’s ceiling. If there’s a concern, it’s right now Brazile is generously listed at 215 pounds on the MUTigers.com roster. He has the capability of being an immediate help defensively, but the offensive game is a little more of a work in progress. He’s aided by a late growth spurt, so he is skilled but he’s still learning his body a bit. Last summer he was locking down some of the more elite players on the grassroots circuit. But what does that mean for this season? I expect Brazile to be brought on gradually, mainly playing around the basket defensively as he can be an elite shot blocker. A good comparison for him might be a young Leo Lyons, who as a freshman played just 21.1% of available minutes, or roughly 8-9 minutes a game. Lyons developed more as he aged, but he was merely a back of the rotation big early on. I think that’s probably the best fit for Brazile early.
The 6’9 DeSmet product has reportedly stood out in early workouts, even garnering a mention from Cuonzo Martin in some recent comments. To me, the best case scenario for Keita might be a player like Johnathan Williams III, who was asked to do a little too much earlier in his career, but clearly had great potential and was the best option. Williams played 65% of his minutes as a freshman, and I’m not sure I see Keita averaging close to 26 minutes, but he’s a little more physically ready to play around the rim than Brazile, and the minutes are going to be there. Williams was a little more advanced with his skillset early on, but Keita may be asked to have the same kind of impact.
The player who is probably the biggest mystery to me on this team is Durugordon. He has everything you want in a wing. He’s got great size and length, a good shooting pocket and is a plus athlete. Durugordon has as much NBA potential as anyone on the roster, but he’s not quite ready to be that guy right now. You could look within the Missouri program for a good comp, but I’m going to reach into Cuonzo Martin’s past and pull out one of my favorite players from his Tennessee days— Josh Richardson. Richardson only played 39% of the minutes as a freshman (around 15 mpg), and had a rough 82 ORtg, but Richardson is entering his seventh season in the NBA, and played 76% of the minutes as a junior under Martin. So if things are a little rough to start, look to the future on Durugordon because he’s got that kind of ability.
One of the bigger mysteries on the team is Brown, the younger brother of Kobe. Kaleb was a well sought after recruit early in his high school days, but the recruiters trailed off a bit as Kaleb struggled to stay healthy. In a lot of ways, he’s very similar to his brother— he’s more skilled than other players his size, and he won’t blow you away with athleticism, but I wouldn’t count him out at all. He can handle the ball, passes it well, and he’s a load to try and defend because of his size. He’s listed at 6’5 and 265 pounds, the only player listed with more weight is Jordan WIlmore. I think that listed weight needs to come down some, but Brown’s ability to use his body to shield off defenders early may give him some early looks while the other freshmen get up to speed. It’s difficult to find a comp for Brown because of his size, but I think the bull-like mentality and physical body might make him a candidate for a J.T. Tiller-like performance. I’m a Tiller honk, so I don’t say this lightly, and I think it’s a best case scenario kind of thing. But if Brown trims his weight a bit, there aren’t many guards who can match his size at the position, and opposing guards struggled with Tiller’s size and strength as well.
What are your expectations from this incoming class?