Junior guard Jordan Clarkson and former Tiger Phil Pressey go way back. They played together in elementary leagues in San Antonio, Texas. They stayed in touch through high school and into college, texting on occasion.
Pressey led Missouri in assists his sophomore year, but his biggest helper may have come off the court. With Clarkson looking to transfer from Tulsa, Pressey told his childhood friend to stop by Columbia to take a look.
“It was my last stop,” Clarkson said.
Now, after sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Clarkson is ready to take over Pressey’s spot as the leader of not only the backcourt, but the entire team as well.
The Tigers size up as a young squad this season, with several freshman and junior college transfers taking over. With Clarkson’s experience in high-level college basketball at Tulsa and a year spent traveling with the team last season, coach Frank Haith said he expects him to play a leadership role on the team, even as a transfer.
Haith cited Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who named Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood his team’s captain.
“It’s not unique and unusual to have a guy that sat out (as a transfer) that you would consider a leader of your team,” Haith said.
Clarkson said he and the other upperclassmen are ready to step up and be leaders.
“Especially with all of the older guys, Tony Criswell, Jabari (Brown) and Earnest (Ross), I feel like we all need to step up and be leaders for this team, especially because we have a lot of young guys,” Clarkson said. “We have to help our young guys. I feel like we’ve got a young team, but they listen to us, and they’ll follow the leaders.”
Filling in for an NBA player is tough, but Haith said he thinks Clarkson brings another element to point guard position. Haith said Clarkson can not only pass the ball efficiently, but drive and finish as well.
“I think that Jordan will do a good job of finding what, in terms of taking advantage of the defense, what they give him,” Haith said.
At Tulsa, Clarkson played not only point guard but shooting guard, too. Tiger fans should expect to see Clarkson at both positions this season, as Clarkson said Haith has had him play at different spots in practice.
Clarkson’s 6-foot-5-inch frame compares favorable to the sub-5-foot-10-inch Pressey. Not only will it help him inside, but the length will strengthen his defensing as well.
“Jordan is our best defender,” Haith said. “He’s really good on the ball. He’s good off the ball. He has great instincts. He runs down loose balls. That’s a great quality to have, your point guard as your best defender.”