With Phil Pressey leaving school after his junior season for the NBA, Missouri had an important question to answer entering the 2013-14 season: who will grab the reins and lead the team from the point guard position? And with the team boasting an 8-0 record after beating West Virginia 80-71 on Thursday night, it’s become even more apparent that Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson is the correct answer to that question.
Clarkson was seen as the likely answer during the summer, thanks to his offensive skill set, and he’s lived up to those expectations thus far. Prior to Thursday’s game Clarkson led the team in both scoring and assists, averaging 19.4 points and 3.6 assists per contest. Against the Mountaineers Clarkson was able to get into the paint at will, especially in the first half, finishing the game with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Clarkson’s now eclipsed the 20-point mark in four consecutive games, and clearly he’s a different option at the point than Pressey way. Not the best perimeter shooter (Clarkson entered Thursday shooting 22.7% from three and missed both attempts against WVU), Clarkson’s taken advantage of his mid-range game and the ability to get to the basket. And the presence of capable scorers Jabari Brown (18 points) and Earnest Ross (16) on the wings makes it difficult for opponents to cheat too much.
But there are areas in which Missouri needs to show improvement at the point with a game against No. 18 UCLA next on the schedule. Clarkson will need to continue to improve as a decision-maker in the Tigers’ pick-and-roll game, and with teams likely to sag off in such situations he needs to connect at a higher rate from the perimeter as well. And down the stretch the Tigers were a little too loose with the basketball, with their point guards (Wes Clark led the team with five assists) having some trouble with the pressure West Virginia was applying.
The game was essentially decided in the first 11 minutes, with Missouri scoring the first nine points and leading 25-11 with 9:06 to go in the first half. The Mountaineers, one of the highest-scoring teams in the country entering the game, couldn’t make a shot and the margin proved to be too much to make up.
WVU was a good test for Missouri as a team and Clarkson individually, and the result was a positive one on both fronts. But UCLA represents a stiffer test, and it’s one that will be a greater indicator of Missouri’s potential this season.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.