Team of the Decade: Who made The Maneater’s best men’s basketball team from 2010 to 2019

Missouri have had five NCAA Tournament appearances in the past 10 seasons.
Photos courtesy of Mizzou Athletics and The Associated Press. Graphic by Jake Fein. Jake Fein

In the past decade, Missouri men’s basketball has seen its share of historically good and bad seasons. The Tigers have had four different coaches, moved from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, won a conference tournament championship and qualified for five NCAA Tournament berths. Here’s a look at the top players from the past decade.

Point guard: Phil Pressey

Pressey is the first of many Tiger players from the 2011-12 squad to make the list. In Pressey’s three seasons at Missouri, he facilitated a Tiger team that made the NCAA Tournament every year. The Tigers combined record in his career was 76-27, including a 30-5 record and Big 12 Tournament Championship in the 2011-12 season. Pressey is most remembered for his unselfishness with the ball. In 2012, he set a Missouri single-game record with 19 assists against UCLA. He also holds the Missouri single-season record for assists with 240 in 2012-13, breaking his own record from 2011-12. He is the all-time leader in assists in Tiger history. Pressey was also a nightmare for opponents on defense. His 196 steals are tied for the most in school history. It’s fair to wonder if anyone would ever touch Pressey’s records had he not declared for the NBA after his junior season. Pressey went undrafted and bounced around the NBA for a few seasons with his most minutes on the Boston Celtics. While he averaged three turnovers per game at Missouri, his electric playmaking ability makes him the top Missouri point guard of the decade, and it’s not really even close.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Clarkson

Clarkson only played at Missouri for one year but it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t make the team. While other former point guards like Jordan Geist spent multiple productive seasons for the Tigers, Clarkson’s talent alone is enough to at least earn him an honorable mention. After transferring from Tulsa, Clarkson finished second on the team in scoring during the 2013-14 season, averaging 17.5 points per game. On a team that lacked frontcourt production, Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross led the Tigers to a 23-12 record, barely missing the NCAA Tournament. The wins would be vacated three years later. Clarkson also led the team in assists with 3.4. After forgoing his senior season for the NBA Draft, Clarkson was selected with the No. 46 pick by the Washington Wizards. He was traded on draft night to the Los Angeles Lakers where he spent over three seasons. In 2018, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a deal that involved Isaiah Thomas. He scored a career-high 42 points against the Nets on February 13, 2019. Clarkson has averaged double digit points in every season in the NBA. Had Clarkson played at Missouri for more than a year, he might have a case to be a starter on the all-decade team.

Shooting guard: Marcus Denmon

Coming out of high school, Denmon, a three-star recruit on Rivals, didn’t have a tremendous amount of hype. But he left as one of the best players in program history. In his first two seasons, he primarily came off the bench. His most memorable moment during his freshman season came against No. 2 seed Memphis in the Sweet 16 in 2009. He drained a half-court shot at the end of the first half and helped lead Missouri to the Elite Eight. Denmon showed great improvement from the three-point line during his freshman and sophomore years. He shot 40% from beyond the arc during his sophomore season after shooting just 30% the year before. In his junior and senior seasons, he averaged 16.9 and 17.7 points per game respectively and was a consensus second team All-American in the 2011-12 season. His 141 games played is tied with Kim English for the most in a Missouri uniform and he is the fifth highest scorer in Tiger history. Denmon, English, Laurence Bowers and Steve Moore also have the most wins for any senior class in Missouri men’s basketball history. Since his time as a Tiger, Denmon was drafted but never played an NBA game. He has played in several different countries overseas with his last stint coming on the Zhejiang Golden Bulls. Denmon is an easy pick for shooting guard.

Honorable Mention: Jabari Brown

If the all-decade team needs a bucket, Brown, at least in his senior season, is the guy. He transferred from the University of Oregon after playing in just two games for the Ducks. In Brown’s first year with MU, he averaged 13.7 points per game and helped Missouri reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. In his senior season, he made a significant leap. He transformed into a knockdown three-point shooter at 41% and averaged 19.9 points per game. His 19.9 ppg led the conference and earned him a spot on the First Team All-Southeastern Conference team. His 698 points in 2013-14 are the seventh highest by a Missouri player in a single season. In addition to his scoring, he grabbed 4.4 rebounds and had nearly two assists per game. After forgoing his senior season for the NBA Draft, Brown went undrafted but signed with the Lakers after playing for the Houston Rockets in the Summer League. In 2015, he played 19 games for the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 11.9 points primarily off of the bench. Since then, he has played for multiple international teams as well as the Santa Cruz Warriors. If Brown had played for Missouri for four years, he’d have a strong case to be a starter on this team.

Small Forward: Kim English

As a freshman, English started slightly over a third of Missouri’s games, but he would average only 6.5 points per game. He had a big impact in the NCAA tournament as he came off of the bench to hit two go ahead free throws to knock off Marquette. In the 2009-10 season, English was elevated to a larger role starting in 29 of the Tigers’ games. His 14.0 points per game led the team and was enough to help earn him a spot on the All-Big 12 Third Team. His junior year though, English struggled to replicate the success he had the previous season seeing his per game averages for points, steals and rebounds all fall along with his field goal percentage and three-point percentage. In his fourth and final season, though, English rebounded to finish once again as an All-Big 12 Third Team member. He averaged a career high 14.5 points per game and helped lead Missouri to the Big 12 Tournament championship earning the honor of Big 12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player. His 1,570 points in his career is the 13th most in program history, and his 239 three-pointers is the fourth most in Tiger history. English was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the 44th pick in the 2012 season. He would go on to play 41 games in the NBA before spending two years overseas. After returning to the U.S., English became an assistant coach on the staff of former Missouri head coach Frank Haith at Tulsa and now coaches at Tennessee. He was one of the key pieces for Missouri’s brief run of success in the early 2010s, and his sweet shooting stroke from beyond the arc helped get him a spot on this team.

Honorable Mention: Earnest Ross

Missouri has struggled to find reliable wing play after DeMarre Carroll left the program for the NBA in the late ‘00s, so there aren’t a lot of options at the position after English. Ross showed some ability on both ends of the court, though, which is just enough to earn him an honorable mention. Ross began his college career at Auburn where he spent two years before transferring to Missouri. Ross struggled heavily in his first season at Auburn, shooting only 28% from the field and averaging only 2.8 points per game. As a sophomore, though, Ross made a massive leap to average 13.1 points per game while also averaging a team high 6.6 rebounds. After transferring to Missouri, Ross was forced to sit out the 2011-12 season. In his redshirt junior year he was the top SEC bench scorer with 11.0 points per game in conference play. Across the entire season, Ross averaged 10.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and was second on the team with 49 made three-pointers. In his final college season, Ross started all 35 games and averaged 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game while hitting the second most three-pointers with 57. After leaving Missouri to play professionally, Ross has played for a multitude of teams ranging from Australia to Denmark to Qatar.

Power forward: Laurence Bowers

A finalist for Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball award in high school, Bowers selected Missouri over a host of other Division 1 programs. In his first season, Bowers saw limited action, averaging only 6.9 minutes per game though he showed flashes throughout the season of potentially becoming a well-rounded starter. In the 2009-10 campaign, Bowers was third on the team in scoring despite coming off the bench most of the season and only starting 11 games. His junior year Bowers made the jump to becoming a starter and delivered on the expectations that came with his elevated role. He was a Big 12 All-Defensive Team pick and blocked eight shots against Colorado, tied for the most in a single game in program history. On the season, he averaged 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The next season, Bowers took a medical redshirt due to a torn ACL in his left knee which he suffered in the preseason. Bowers bounced back to set a career high in minutes played per game at 27.1 and points per game at 14.1. Bowers would sign a Summer League contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, but didn’t make the roster forcing him to go overseas to continue his career in Israel and Italy. For any other program Bowers might’ve just been an honorable mention, but for a team that has lacked some frontcourt production it’s hard to argue against putting Bowers into the starting lineup.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Puryear

Puryear spent his entire four-year career at Missouri after growing up in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. As a freshman, Puryear averaged 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game which was good enough to earn him SEC All-Freshman Team honors. As a sophomore, Puryear would average 11.8 points per game while leading the team with 6.0 rebounds per game. He would have a career-best 30 point performance against Auburn in the first round of the SEC tournament where he hit an overtime, buzzer-beating, three-point shot to win. The next year he would have some more late-game heroics with another game-winning three-pointer against Mississippi State. Otherwise, it was a season of regression for Puryear statistically, who only averaged 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. In his final season, Puryear started 30 games to bring him to 119 career starts, fifth all time and just five less than the program record. Once again, though, he took a step back in terms of production with just 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Puryear struggled to ever replicate the scoring ability he showed in his first two seasons, but his steady presence and the sheer number of games he started is enough to earn him an honorable mention.

Center: Ricardo Ratliffe

A two-year player at Missouri from 2010-2012, Ratliffe joined the program as the top junior college recruit after spending two seasons at Central Florida Community College. During Ratliffe’s prolific career at CFCC, he set the record for the highest single season point total as a freshman. He then reset the record his sophomore year to become the leading scorer of all time at CFCC. In his first season at Missouri, Ratliffe experienced similar levels of success being named Postseason Newcomer of the Year. He was an All-Big 12 honorable mention while averaging 10.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, and also led the Tigers in double-doubles with five on the season. The next season Ratliffe shot 69.3% from the field, which led the nation and was the highest single season total in Missouri and Big 12 history until Kansas’s Udoka Azubuike broke the record in the 2017-18 season. He averaged 13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game which was good enough to put him tenth on the all-time blocks list at Missouri despite only playing two seasons. After finishing his career at Missouri, Ratliffe was drafted sixth overall in the Korean Basketball League where he became a naturalized citizen to play for the South Korean national team adopting the name Ra Gun-ah. At the 2019 FIBA World Cup Ratliffe would go on to lead all players in the tournament with his 23.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Ratliffe is the clear starter at center for this team as he was one of very few players who consistently showed a high level of offensive output. He was also a solid rim protector who managed to get himself into Missouri record books despite having a shorter career than most players.

Honorable Mention: Alex Oriakhi

A McDonald’s All-American in high school, Oriakhi initially went to the University of Connecticut for three years and was a part of their 2011 National Champion team. A starter all three years at UConn, Oriakhi was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team his freshman season. In his sophomore campaign Oriakhi showed improved production averaging 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. His junior year though he took a step back as star freshman Andre Drummond cut heavily into his minutes, limiting his opportunities and touches. After the season Oriakhi decided to transfer to Missouri, partially as a result of his limited minutes, but largely because of a postseason ban that UConn had received for the 2012-13 season. At Missouri, Oriakhi averaged career highs in points and field goal percentage with 11.2 points per game and 63.9% shooting from the floor and racked up eleven double-doubles. After his college career Oriakhi was selected 57th overall in the NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns and has since bounced around playing for 13 professional teams in 11 different countries. If Oriakhi had spent multiple years at Missouri he very easily could have been the starting center as he became one of the focal points of Missouri’s attack in the low post. Unfortunately, a lack of volume and longevity to his career at Missouri keeps him as an honorable mention.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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