2013-2014 Top 68 Team Previews: #21 Tennessee Volunteers
Jarnell Stokes returned to Tennessee poised to have a huge year.
By Kaiti Bennett
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
2012-13 Record: 23-11 Overall, 11-7 (5th in the SEC)
Key Additions: Jordan Clarkson, Wes Clark, Johnathan Williams III
Key Departures: Phil Pressey, Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell, Laurence Bowers
PG- Jordan Clarkson
SG- Jabari Brown
SF/G- Earnest Ross
PF- Tony Criswell
C- Stefan Jankovic
In 2013, the Tigers will be looking to rebuild as they will be losing much of the production they had last year. The front court will be without the rebounding and scoring of Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers. Last year, this duo put up 24.3 PPG as well as 14.5 RPG. Oriakhi and Bowers were also extremely efficient as they each shot over 50% from the field (63.9% and 54.6% respectively). While coach Haith will not have these options to go to anymore, he does have eight young big men to work with.
The most experienced post player on the roster is Tony Criswell. In 2012-13, Criswell averaged 5.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG. While he functioned mostly out of a reserve role last year, the lack of experience for the Tigers should push coach Haith to put Criswell into the starting lineup. This year’s top recruit, Johnathan Williams III, should see some significant minutes. At 6’9” he is a bit longer than Bowers. This should give the Tigers a viable shot blocking as well as scoring option down on the block.
The leading candidate for the other starting post position will most likely be last year’s top recruit Stefan Jankovic. Jankovic has the ability to shoot and shoot well. In his only two starts last season he scored 14 points (vs Tenn St.) and 11 points (vs South Carolina St.). In order to earn/maintain a starting spot, he will need to assert himself on the boards more. At his height (6’11”) the Canadian center needs to be tough, and show the ability to bang bodies down low. Eyes will also be on Ryan Rosburg (So.), transfers Keanu Post and Zach Price, as well as incoming freshman Torren Jones as Mizzou’s staff will try and see what they can do with whatever playing (and practice) time they are given.
Mizzou’s backcourt also took a (potentially) devastating loss this spring when point guard, and team leader, Phil Pressy decided to try his skills in the NBA. This came as a shock to many fans as Pressy did not have the best of seasons in 2012-13 (37% shooting, 32% 3FG). Still, Mizzou’s offense will miss his ability to drive the lane and dish the rock (7.1 APG last year). Coach Haith will now have to find a new floor general to lead his Tigers.
Despite this loss, Mizzou’s backcourt is still looking pretty good. They bring back Jabari Brown. He is the Tiger’s returning leader in scoring (13.7 PPG) and assists (1.4 APG). At 6’5”, Brown will be the shooting guard for Mizzou. In the third guard (technically small forward) spot, we should see Earnest Ross. Ross was the sixth man for Mizzou last year. Putting up 10.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG showed that Ross could produce off the bench. Now, as a potential starter, he will have to show that increased time will not have a negative effect on his numbers.
The battle for the starting point guard position should be very interesting as there are a few viable options for Haith to go with. He may go with 6-0 freshman Wes Clark. Clark led his high school team to a 27-1 record and their first state title in over 25 years. While he has the potential to be a good leader, college is a different level than high school. With that knowledge, Haith may not want to put a freshman in charge of running his offense. This is where Tulsa transfer Jordan Calrkson has an advantage. A combo guard, Clarkson averaged 16.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.5 APG. His experience, length, ability to score, and hit shots from long range (37.4% from three) could earn him starting point guard duties. Expect to see Corey Haith and Shane Rector in reserve roles.
Losing a large amount of experience and leadership can take its toll on a team. As this is a very young Missouri team, they will need guys like Ross, Brown, and Criswell to show everyone how things are done at Missouri. This season will also be a crucial one for Haith as he sees what he can do with his own players and not someone else’s stay overs. If things work out well, the Tigers may be able to fight their way into a lower-tier postseason tournament.