MU faces massive hoops makeover

MU faces massive hoops makeover Live

Frank Haith is staring at the crossroads of his coaching career at Missouri.

Guard Jordan Clarkson is headed to the NBA Draft. Earnest Ross is an exiting senior. Jabari Brown is exploring his pro options and seems likely to depart as well.

All signs point toward a challenging rebuild next season, Haith’s fourth in Boone County. Given the restless booster climate, he must produce a competitive team next season and set the groundwork for 2015-16 and beyond.

Haith’s Mizzou track record at Missouri looks fine at a glance. He inherited a 23-victory team from Mike Anderson and won 30, 23 and 23 games during his first three seasons.

He earned two NCAA Tournament berths and one NIT bid. He earned national coach-of-the-year honors. Haith hasn’t moved the program forward, but he has maintained its national profile while expanding its recruiting reach.

So why are the Haithers on the rampage? The coach hasn’t built fan equity for several obvious reasons:

  • He was an unpopular hire, given his lack of success at Miami.
  • His magical first season was ruined by the horrible NCAA Tournament loss to Norfolk State.
  • The two-year NCAA investigation into his actions at Miami wore on the programs and its fans.
  • This season’s squad had every chance to extend the school’s NCAA Tournament streak, but didn’t.

The Tigers beat two Sweet 16 teams and two other NCAA tourney teams this season. They earned the best RPI of any major conference team left off the bracket.

But this team became hard to watch as opponents bottled up Clarkson at one end and exploited its defensive indifference at the other end.

So now it’s time to go to work. Once again Haith will have a brand new group – but this time it appears he will start over without proven major college scoring.

If Brown leaves as expected, here are his assets in order of value:

Johnathan Williams III, PF: He had six double-digit rebound games as a freshman and also showed flashes of offensive promise with his left-handed attacks at the rim. But he struggled to finish around the rim against more physical opponents. So he has a full summer of work ahead.

Jakeenan Gant, PF: This four-star, top 50 recruit from Georgia is Haith’s best freshman signing to date. He is expected to make a big and immediately impact. His ability to work the baseline on the offensive end will fill a huge void on this team.

Four star power forward Jakeenan Gant commits to Missouri Tigers
by Gymratinsider via YouTube

Cameron Biedscheid, SF/SG: The former Cardinal Ritter star becomes eligible after the first semester.  He transferred from Notre Dame, where he averaged 6.2 point per game as a freshman. He was the Post-Dispatch Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year in Missouri as a high school senior. His perimeter shooting will make him a focal point of the offense.

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Deuce Bello, SG.PG: Back in the day he was a Top 50 recruit for Baylor. After failing to fully develop for the Bears – averaging just 2.4 and 3.3 points in his two seasons – he transferred to Mizzou and spent the last season in training. He lacks Keion Bell’s jumper, but should make a similar impact with his strong defense and ability to finish in transition. He is a slasher in the half-court offense, so he ran some point this season in practice.

6'4" Deuce Bello Official Mixtape: One of the Best High School Dunkers Ever?
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SPOTLIGHT: Deuce Bello's Transfer Year
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Wes Clark, PG: He logged significant time running the point as a freshman. He was a pleasant surprise from the perimeter, hitting 37 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. But a marijuana bust cut short his season and put a cloud over his Mizzou season.

Namon Wright, SG: This four-star, top-100 recruit from Los Angeles gained importance when both Clarkson and Brown bolted. His development will become critical with Biedschied ineligible for the first semester.

6'5 Guard Namon Wright Is The TOP WEST COAST SLASHER In The Class Of 2014 [HD] (2013)
by WhoGotNext via YouTube

Zach Price, C: He barely got off the bench for Louisville in his two seasons there, but his size (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) and athleticism will make him an asset for Missouri. Low post defense was just one of the many problems the 2013-14 Tigers endured. He will address that.

SPOTLIGHT: Zach Price improves during transfer season
by Mizzou Network via YouTube

Ryan Rosburg, C: He was Missouri’s most improved player, logging 22.2 minutes per game after averaging just 6.9 minutes as a freshman. He did a solid job finishing at the rim, converting 71.6 percent of his shots, but his turnovers (41) low-post defensive struggles became an issue in conference play.

Torren Jones, F: He is an explosive athlete but unpolished in most aspects of the game, except for free throw shooting. Jones worked his way into the playing rotation during SEC play and teased fans with flashes of brilliance. He played double-digit minutes in 10 of his last 11 games. He is a strong breakout candidate as a sophomore.

Keanu Post, C: He showed some promise while scoring 14 points against a terrible Mississippi State squad, but otherwise his transition from the JUCO level did come quickly. Gant and Price figure to play a lot next season, so he will face a big challenge during his senior year.

Shane Rector, PG: He seldom played behind Clarkson and Clark, but he held up surprisingly well in high-leverage minutes against Arkansas and Texas A&M when foul troubles forced Haith to play him. If he sticks it out Rector could earn a decent role next season. That is a really big if.

The building for next season is already underway. With at least one scholarship available for next season – and likely more -- Haith and his staff are hunting for immediate JUCO help at point guard (Dequon Miller? Roderick Bobbitt? Jay Miller?) and shooting guard (Kevin Punter?).

All the coaching changes could prompt some good high school players to de-commit from their schools. And plenty of players are looking to transfer, either to play right away or to sit a season.

The good news: Missouri may have just one senior next season (Post). Haith could have an opportunity to finally build some continuity.

The bad news: The Tigers could take some lumps during the rebuild. How often does a program lose THAT much scoring and then win a lot of games the next season?

The big question Missouri fans ask again and again is this: Can Haith coach? The next 12 months offer him quite the challenge and opportunity.

Can he recruit and develop impact players? Can he adjust his Xs and Os to the talent on hand? Can he mold a more cohesive and energetic team?

The next season may not define Haith’s career at Mizzou, but it should tell us which way the program is really headed.


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