#23 Jakeenan Gant
6’8" 207 lbs
There are few players out there more tantalizing than Jakeenan Gant. His physical attributes are easily noted. He runs faster and jumps higher than just about everyone, he has a feathery touch on his jump shot, and has all the fast twitch muscles you could want. When you see Gant play well, it's easy to see why he was pegged as a top 60 recruit coming out of high school. He's capable of impacting the game on both ends of the floor with an uncanny knack for blocking or altering shots, he's capable of rebounding better than anyone else on the floor and good enough to start and finish things on the break.
Where the love affair with Gant falls apart is the little thing of consistency. Far too often Gant disappears and has so little impact on the game that he doesn't see the floor for more than 10 minutes, which happened five times. and far too often he fails to even hit double digits in points, which happened in all but four games. The hot and cold nature of Jakeenan Gant has been frustrating to watch at times, so then who is the real Gant? That's the mystery that Kim Anderson is trying to unlock.
Despite his up and downs, Gant was still pretty productive. He only averaged 15.5 minutes per contest, but pushing out his averages closer to 30 minutes and he was at nearly 10 points and nearly 7 rebounds. Which, while probably not what Mizzou fans were thinking when he signed on two years ago, isn't bad at all. Gant is productive when he's on the floor, though part of his problem is more on the mental side of things. He struggles on the defensive end of the floor, and not because he can't do it, it's because he's thinking too much and reacting less. When Gant reacts, he's immediately one of the best players on the floor, he just doesn't react enough. It's like he's trying to be perfect instead of just being good. And the results have been mediocre and certainly not living up to his amazing potential.
I wrote about trying to get Gant going back in December, and there were certainly moments where he flashed his ability shortly after that piece came out and I thought maybe I had figured something out. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Obviously, that's not the case... as he would just vanish from game to game. He did however almost quadruple his three point percentage, so that's something right?
Where Mizzou goes from here with Gant will be interesting because he's the only sophomore left. There's no secret that the staff wasn't thrilled with the effort from that class, and there's reason to think that maybe the removal of some personalities from the team will put Gant around the other so-called "gym rats" on the roster. There's also the thought that his shoulder surgery right after the season should help him because he played with it all season, and now he can really reapply himself this offseason in the weight room and hopefully find a way to turn that corner. It's obvious the ability is there for him to do just that.
If there's one guy who needs to bottle whatever happened to Rosburg this season, it's Jakeenan Gant. He's got all these incredible gifts - athleticism, touch, bounce - but he just can't seem to put it together. Part of the problem seems to have been a shoulder injury that was preventing him from building strength and weight in the weight room, but part of it just seems like he doesn't know what he's supposed to be doing out there. I think the coaching staff is partly responsible - they seem, probably because Puryear has seized the 4 spot, to want Gant to play more like a post than a wing, and Gant seems to want to do the opposite - and part of it is that Gant just looks tentative out there. If he spends the entire offseason bulking up and learning to play more assertively, he could take control of the other frontcourt spot and give Mizzou an incredibly talented, if undersized, frontline while the bigger fellas develop. I'd hate to see a guy with all this talent spend his Mizzou career just backing up Kevin Puryear.
Jakeenan Gant's second season was a lot like his first, minus the suspension. He had more trouble shooting the ball (again, a symptom of this Mizzou team), kept jacking up threes that made people lose their brains and tended to be a bit foul prone. However, in his sophomore season Jakeenan upped his rebounding and used his size a bit better while blocking shots. It came out at the end of the year that Jakeenan played all season with a shoulder injury that may or may not have affected his game, but the kid has got a huge amount of potential. As Sam pointed out earlier this year, Jakeenan does many things well, and it seems as if the staff just isn't playing to his strengths which as fans is frustrating because when we get "good Jakeenan" he's a game changer. He's got speed, athleticism and one of Jay Bilas' favorite things, length! What I would like to see in year three is for the staff to play to his strengths and to see Jakeenan and KP on the floor at the same time, stretching the defense and running, running, running! He also can score in bunches when given the opportunity showing out very well against a Vanderbilt team that should have caused him issues but didn't, which leads me to think that he's got untapped potential that's just waiting to burst forth.
Burst forth Jakeenan, blow up and go nuts out there. And to Kim Anderson, start game planning for this guy, do it, NOW!