COLUMBIA, Mo. – Only three players from last year’s Missouri basketball roster are still on the roster, but just in case there’s any uncertainty, the leading scorer, rebounder and only All-SEC selection from the team announced on Monday that he would return to play under new coach Dennis Gates.
Forward Kobe Brown, fresh off the Tigers lead with 12.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, posted on Instagram: “I’d rather not be here. Let’s resume #heretostay #home #miz”
Gates described Brown as an “anchor” for a roster that will be in transition for a second consecutive season.
“Kobe Brown is an exceptional, exceptional talent,” Gates said Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. “Obviously it’s well documented his success last season. He was a beacon of hope in our program. … He had, in a short time, the opportunity to meet with me and the staff about how we plan to play him in our system. And finally, his parents are there by his side every step of the way. So he’s a successful guy on and off the court with a GPA of over 3. Amazing young man who has talent.
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“I really believe having such an anchor here is very important. I think it’s important for two reasons: It gives these future SEC Players of the Year who are rookies the (example) that it can getting here to Mizzou. And I’m excited to see where he takes us as a team as we gel and how much better he has and how much more he has in his tank to give.
Brown, a second-team All-SEC player last season, returns next season with his younger brother Kaleb, a freshman point guard, as well as sophomore forward Ronnie DeGray III. Otherwise, the rest of last year’s squad entered the transfer portal, most of whom chose their next school.
First-year point guard Anton Brookshire became the latest to commit elsewhere, announcing on Tuesday that he was heading to Iona. Freshman forward Trevon Brazile, who signed with Arkansas, is the only deceased player heading to one of the six major conferences. Also absent from last season’s team: Javon Pickett (St. Louis University), Jordan Wilmore (Northwestern State), Amari Davis (Wright State) and DaJuan Gordon (New Mexico State). The others were not engaged on Tuesday: Yaya Keita, Boogie Coleman and Sean Durugordon.
Passers-by are welcome
Gates will have at least two extras next season, possibly more. Ben Sternberg, a walk-on under Gates at Cleveland State, will join the program, he announced Monday. Jackson Francois, a freshman from Las Vegas, will also join the team, Gates said. He is the son of Mizzou athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois and first signed on to play for former Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin. United had no extras on the roster last season.
“Every step of the way, we’ve had successful drop-in programs,” Gates said. “So if there are any student athletes who are curious about walking, high school kids who want to walk in this great state of Missouri, please contact us. I really think so. Because our success at Florida State started with our green team. And that was our walk-in program, which I was responsible for throughout my tenure.
No shooting worries
After Mizzou set a program record for 3-point shooting futility last season at 28.1 percent, Gates didn’t add anyone who was a high-volume, high-percentage 3-point shooter. But he thinks having two capable point guards in Nick Honor and Sean East will help his teammates become better shooters. Gates has studied the shots of every returning and arriving player and sees the potential.
“Every one of our guys down to the very last,” he said. “You have to understand how stressed they were able to take those (3-point shots). We need to redefine what a good shot is. Sometimes we have to sacrifice a good 3 for a big 3. Once they have the definition of who you can consider marginal shooters, you will see a level increase in their percentages because at the end of the day, you have (leaders) with positive help to revenue ratios. … This is added and prolonged. I think we have a group of guys who depend on each other and are now off-the-shelf jump shooters, not creative 3-point shooters on their own after the rebound. I think Kobe Brown is a better 3-point shooter than he displays. I saw it first hand. Now I have to translate and transfer all of these things that we did this spring into the summer into the season. It comes in stages. I’m excited to see them put it all together, but also let the team understand my expectations of what a big hit will be.