With Phil Pressey making the decision to enter the 2013 NBA Draft, Missouri head coach Frank Haith was faced with a dilemma. Who will take over at point guard for the Tigers as they look to return to the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive season?
Two of the players in the mix, Wes Clark and Shane Rector, are both freshmen who have yet to play a college game. But there is a third option to consider: 6-5 guard Jordan Clarkson, who sat out last season after transferring in from Tulsa. Clarkson may be bigger than your standard floor general, but a full season of working with and against Pressey in practice and a trip to the Chris Paul Elite Guard Camp last month has helped Clarkson’s development.
In a story written by Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Clarkson stated that in summer workouts he’s been playing both the point and the off-guard positions.
“I’m really not sure what we’re looking at as far as the depth chart goes, but in practice, I’ve been running both the one and the two,” Clarkson said. “They are not the same, but both are really ball-dominant roles. It’s an open system and it gives us a lot of freedom.”
In two seasons at Tulsa Clarkson was an important cog in the attack for the Golden Hurricane, with his possession percentage eclipsing the 27% mark in both seasons according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. And while there were some issues with turnovers as a freshman (turnover rate of 25.3%) Clarkson got better as a sophomore, dropping his turnover rate to a more respectable 18.0%.
The question for Clarkson: how well will he be able to set up his teammates when running the point? Clarkson averaged just 2.3 assists per game in his two seasons at Tulsa, but to be fair he was asked to do quite a bit when it came to scoring. That changes some with Missouri, as double-digit scorers Jabari Brown (13.7 ppg) and Earnest Ross (10.3 ppg) return to help carry the scoring load.
Clarkson’s size (and skill) gives him the ability to be a matchup problem for many of the Tigers’ opponents this season. If he can make good on that promise, Missouri’s more than capable of returning to the NCAA tournament.