COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri men’s basketball assistant Cornell Mann has made plenty of stops in his coaching career.
He’s worked at Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Dayton and Iowa State, among others. At those stops, he’s coached many point guards including All-American guard Monte Morris, for his first two years at Iowa State.
Filling in for Cuonzo Martin on the Southeastern Conference teleconference Thursday, Mann had high praise for Missouri freshman Xavier Pinson’s passing ability.
“His ability to pass the ball, I mean I been coaching almost 20 years, and he’s as good as I’ve ever seen,” Mann said. “To me that’s a pretty high compliment.”
The Simeon Career Academy guard came to Missouri praised for his athletic ability and passing ability. A month into summer workouts, his passing ability seemed to have made an impression on Mann.
But there is still room for growth, Mann said. There are times when Pinson tries to force the “home run” pass too often.
“That’s the one thing he will have to get rid of. He will have to get rid of making the home run pass, but other than that I think he will make a normal transition,” Mann said.
That’s not uncommon for freshman guards as they make the transition from high school to college.
Along with that transition, Pinson, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds on the Rivals database, must also continue working into his body physically.
“Xavier is putting in the work, but he has to continue getting his body to a certain level,” Mann said. “He has the skill, but he is going to have a period where he will have to play through physicality.”
Those transitions won’t change the expectation the Tigers will have of Pinson this season.
Pinson is one of just two eligible true point guards on the Tigers roster this season. Senior Jordan Geist, who Mann called the team’s leader right now, is the other.
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin has previously talked about using Jontay Porter to bring the ball up the floor at times. Freshmen Torrance Watson and Javon Pickett could take some of the ball handling duties, as well, to take some pressure off of Pinson and Geist.
Regardless, Pinson will earn playing time this year and from what the staff has seen from him this summer, Mann said he thinks Martin will be comfortable with the ball in his hand.
“I think he will play a lot this year and we will count on him a lot,” Mann said.
CARRYING ON MOMENTUM: The excitement around the Missouri basketball program isn’t just measured in ticket sales. The momentum from last year’s NCAA Tournament berth can have an impact on recruiting, especially in the state’s borders.
Adding to that momentum is the fact that the Tigers now have three players from last year’s team playing professionally. Michael Porter Jr., was selected No. 14 by the Denver Nuggets in the 2018 NBA Draft. Jordan Barnett signed with the Milwaukee Bucks, earning a summer league spot and Kassius Robertson has signed with Medi Bayreuth, a German pro team.
Those accomplishments, along with the jumps Robertson and Barnett made from this past season, are tangible things the staff can show recruits.
Robertson averaged 16.3 points and shot 43 percent from deep last season, a slight improvement from his junior season at Canisius where he averaged 16.1 points. That improvement, though, came after jumping into the SEC from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Barnett increased his scoring average to 13.7 from 12.2 a year ago and shot 11 percent better from behind the 3-point arc.
“The numbers are real. When we talk to young guys we can literally show them where Kassius went from his junior year to his senior year. We can show the improvement Barnett had from his junior year to his senior year,” Mann said. “It’s all real. It’s up to us, if they don’t find it we are going to put it in their face, whether they are on campus or on the phone with them. It’s very tangible. It’s not like what we have to make anything up.”