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.
“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.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.