COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kassius Robertson came to Missouri with the expectation of making plays for the Tigers men’s basketball team, but starting at point guard was never a thought.
As Missouri worked through its scrimmages, Robertson began to see more time at point guard and started in Missouri’s closed scrimmage against Missouri State. In fact, coach Cuonzo Martin said if he had to name a starting point guard now, it would be Robertson, all but naming him the starter for Friday’s opener against Iowa State.
Robertson had never played point guard competitively before coming to Missouri, even though he always wanted to. He said no coach trusted him enough.
“I’ve never had a coach trust me as much as Coach Martin has,” Robertson said. “It’s nice being able to play that position, but I will definitely play the 2 when Blake” Harris “and Terrance” Phillips “come in. It’s a different mentality.”
Robertson, a graduate transfer from Canisius College, came to Missouri with a reputation for being a sharpshooter. The 6-foot-3 guard shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season, while averaging 16.1 points for the Golden Griffins.
Just watching film, Martin saw that shooting ability. But as practice picked up, he was impressed by Robertson's ball handling as well.
“Watching him on film, with his ability to make shots, you wanted him catching and shooting, but he’s been a better ball-handler than I anticipated in terms of handling the ball and making decisions with the ball,” Martin said.
Kevin Puryear wasn’t surprised by the move.
“He's a seasoned veteran when it comes to college basketball. He makes great decisions with the ball, he's great at scoring the ball and a great defender,” said Puryear, the Blue Springs South High School graduate. “Not only will he be able to run our team, but he'll be able to guard the best guard on the other team, as well.”
Jordan Barnett, on the other hand, was surprised but recalled telling Robertson this summer that he should play point guard.
“I thought he was joking,” Robertson said. “It’s crazy that it came true.”
What Barnett saw was a different dynamic Robertson could bring to the team, especially in the pick and roll.
“He is a much bigger threat to come off and shoot,” Barnett said. “Terrance is a really big threat to come off and shoot, but Kassius is another level of that. If you ever go under on him, it’s going up and it’s likely going in. That aspect, his speed, his ball-handling, his ability to get into the paint. I think it’s going to help us for sure.”
In terms of the rest of the lineup, Martin said he is set on his starting five for Friday’s game, unless somebody gets injured.
The starting five against Kansas, the only open exhibition game, was Harris, Robertson, Michael Porter Jr., Jordan Barnett and Jeremiah Tilmon. Robertson said that against Missouri State, Cullen VanLeer started at shooting guard, but that he’s also played with Barnett and Phillips at shooting guard.
“A lot of positions are interchangeable,” Robertson said. “Everybody can play both.”
SOLD OUT: Missouri announced Tuesday that season tickets for the 2017-18 Missouri men’s basketball season have sold out.
Barnett wasn’t surprised but said it makes the games more exciting.
“The closest game I can remember to being extremely live and energetic was when we played Kentucky last year,” Barnett said. “That was a fun game to play in, even though we did lose. To think we will have something even better than that on Friday, and potentially throughout the season, is really surreal for me."
Mizzou Arena holds 15,061, and the athletic department has sold 15,600 season tickets to date, including 6,028 student combo tickets, the athletic department said.
“The energy will be high, and it should be high because we need that,” Martin said. “Our players expect that, and, when you talk about being a great program, you have to have that."
In total, the 2017-18 public season-ticket sales total of 9,572 is a Mizzou Arena record and an increase over last year's final total of 5,802, the athletic department said. Missouri's student season-ticket total of 6,028 is double last year's total of 3,008 and marks the most sold since the 2013-14 campaign, when 6,816 student tickets were purchased. Mizzou Arena's last sold-out men's basketball game was for the Tigers' 93-63 victory over Arkansas on March 5, 2013.
NEW TIGER: Former University of Illinois-Chicago forward KJ Santos announced on Twitter that he has officially signed with Missouri.
Rated as a three-star prospect out of high school, with offers from Iowa, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Xavier, Santos started in 30 games for the Flames and averaged 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from deep.
Torrance Watson, a 2018 commit from Whitfield High School, plans to sign his letter of intent Thursday, he tweeted.