Junior guard Phil Pressey will forego his final year of eligibility at Missouri and leave for the NBA draft, the team announced Wednesday.
“Many college basketball players dream of this day, but when I had to finally make this decision it was difficult because it means I am leaving a place I love so much,” Pressey said in a statement. “I love my teammates, my coaches, (athletic director) Mike Alden and all of our fans, and I’m so glad I had the chance to play for coach (Frank) Haith these last two years. He had such a big impact on my career and because of that relationship I will help Missouri basketball anyway I can going forward.”
Pressey led the Tigers to a No. 2 ranking in 2011 when Missouri posted a 30-5 record, its winningest in program history, only to fall to Norfolk State in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64. This season Missouri (23-11) fell to Colorado State in the same round.
“I wish we could have brought home a national championship banner, but coming to Mizzou was the best decision of my life,” Pressey continued. “This is a special place, and I will always be a Tiger.”
Pressey averaged 11.9 points per game his junior season and seven assists per game and led the team with 61 steals.
“It's a bittersweet day because we all care so much about Phil, but I know how much research he and his family have done, and I support that 100 percent,” Haith said. “I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to coach Phil for two seasons, and he helped us win a lot of games, but more importantly, he was a great ambassador for our program both on and off the court. I wish Phil and his family all the best as he turns to a new chapter in his basketball career.”
Widely projected to be a second-round choice who would have to compete for an NBA roster spot, the Tigers’ career leader in assists (580) and steals (196), sees that position as merely temporary. Strong performances at scouting camps and team interviews could bring that up, he thinks.
After all, Pressey’s father, Paul, is an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Haith has numerous NBA contacts. Throughout the season, the two have been keeping tabs on where the draft could land Missouri’s prized point man.
“I’ve obviously talked to some NBA personnel about Phil throughout the year,” Haith said. “But I think with his family, their involvement, they had a really good grasp on getting Phil information they thought was important for him to make this decision.”
Pressey’s decision, plus the departures of freshman guards Negus Webster-Chan and Dominique Bull on April 2, opens up bigger roles for sophomore Jabari Brown and junior Earnest Ross.
Once becoming eligible on Deb. 14, Brown went on to average 13.7 points per game. Ross averaged 10.3 points and five rebounds a game coming off the bench as Haith’s sixth man.
Junior guard Jordan Clarkson and incoming freshman Wes Clark are expected step in to fill those voids.
“From the beginning of the year, I think this is something Phil and his family really looked at strongly, so we’ve been prepared (in) how we’ve gone about recruiting, knowing that this could happen,” Haith said, who now has two scholarships to fill with possible transfers. “So we’ve got two legitimate ball-handlers, and we may even take another one.”