The news we had all been waiting for, well if you are a Mizzou sports fan at least, finally broke on Wednesday morning; junior point guard Phil Pressey is headed to the 2013 NBA Draft. I can’t say I’m surprised. The way things ended this year weren’t great for anyone, especially Pressey.
A close road loss on Saturday meant the same type of questions he’d take from the media every Monday. As the season wound down, we started get to less and less time to talk to Phil. I could tell that with each mention of the season’s road struggles and late second missed shots, his voice and body language all changed. He became shut off in a way; like he didn’t really have the answers or if they did they were more like secrets. He wasn’t the same Phil from last season.
As someone who has never played sports at a high competition level, I’m not sure how the mindset of a player is at times. Is there anyway that the final shot that Pressey took against Norfolk State really to win the game but missed really messed him up? I’m not trying to make excuses for him but if you look at the close game situations when the ball was in Pressey’s hand – he clearly struggled. Did he not want to make the same mistake and let his team down again so he thought if had control things would be ok? That a shot to win the game in the regular season could erase the memory of the NCAA Tournament game from 2012? I’m not sure but I know you can’t forget something like that.
I think most importantly Phil just wanted a clean break and to forget about everything that crumbled down after the 2011-12 30-5 season; a season that Mizzou fans and media members constantly compared this season to. It’s hard not to compare and I think that was one of the things that made it really hard for Phil. I think he is looking for a clean start and he’ll get one in a way. People will still talk about how he came up short this season because that is going to affect his draft stock. He can’t escape that but he will be on a new team where that won’t really matter anymore.
We also can’t forget that at the beginning of the season, Frank Haith mentioned that it was going to be the last year for a lot of guys. He slipped up and mentioned Phil before correcting himself saying he didn’t know if Phil was going – but I think he probably did know. Phil had had one foot out the door since the beginning of the season and the other foot went out during SEC play. Even though he struggled, Phil will still be missed. He kept Mizzou in a lot of games but just came up short.
This next season will be an interesting one. Mizzou has talent but most of it is young. They’ll bring back Earnest Ross, Tony Criswell and Jabari Brown who all got valuable minutes of the court. Ryan Rosburg and Stefan Jankovic will also be back but need some major improvement for their sophomore year. They will also have the addition of Jordan Clarkson, who will most likely be the best player on the team. Of these players, I’m most interested in seeing who will take on the leadership role. My guess: Ross. He’s outspoken when he needs to be and emotional enough that he can get the guys to listen.
When the announcement Phil was leaving came, some Mizzou fans asked questions about Negus Webster-Chan and why he was gone if Phil was gone. I don’t think fans would want Negus running things. He came in with high hopes but those quickly crumbled. He couldn’t handle the ball and give Pressey a break. I do have high hopes for incoming freshman point guard Wes Clark. He will be the second best ball handler behind Clarkson and there is a good chance he takes the point guard role this year.
I’m excited to see what is going to happen this next year. How the pieces of the puzzle fit together — but for now I’m ready for a break from basketball. After this season, I don’t want to talk Mizzou basketball again until at LEAST September. I need a break!