Sophomore trio looks to step up for Missouri

Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett and Xavier Pinson scored a combined 21.4 points per game last year.

Torrence Watson gets yelled at by his roommate almost every day, but he doesn’t mind.

“I know every day in practice, Javon [Pickett]’s gonna yell at me for something,” the sophomore said. “I don’t know what it’s gonna be, but I know he’s gonna yell at me.”

The regular verbal accosting isn’t a big deal for Watson, who knows as competitive as Pickett is, any hard feelings will go away when the two go back to their apartment.

“It feels good that I can take that and know that at the end of the day when we go back home, we still gonna kick it,” Watson said. “We still gonna play the game together. We still gonna talk together.”

Even if those contentious moments on the court fade quickly after practice, they still serve as moments when the younger members of the Missouri backcourt can develop.

“I feel like we learn most in practice when we’re on each other, almost about to scuffle or something,” point guard and third roommate Xavier Pinson said. “Then, afterward, we’re like ‘Yeah, we see what we did wrong.’ And we just keep moving forward and getting better.”

All three are sophomores looking to contribute more after solid freshman seasons. Living together, Watson thinks, will allow them to do that more easily.

“We’re guys who came in here at the same time,” Watson said. “We all have the same goals, [that] is to win. So it definitely helps being able to live with people who I’m really good friends with, see everyday on and off the court. It just really builds a better relationship.”

In a rocky 2018-19 season for Missouri, the then-freshman trio provided an unexpected source of stability. Watson played in all 32 games for the Tigers, while Pickett and Pinson appeared in 31 apiece. The three combined to average 21.4 points per game, but aren’t satisfied after a lackluster 15-17 season. For Pickett, improvement begins in the weight room. Missouri basketball’s website lists him at 220 pounds, up from 207 at the beginning of his freshman season.

“I feel like this summer when we were here we took that very serious,” he said. “That was one thing that I feel like helped out my body a lot, making sure I got in the weight room, making sure that I’ll be able to not have those injuries that I had.”

While Pickett was bulking up, Pinson was working on his all-around game and putting in as much work as possible. All three of their work ethics have caught the eyes of teammates.

“I really see them all in the gym a lot more,” junior guard Mark Smith said. “Everyone knows Javon’s a workhorse, but Torrence and [Pinson] have really been working on their games … You know you gotta keep it up just because of the level of play they’re playing at this year.”

To Smith, the results have been just as noticeable as the process.

“As far as [Pinson] goes, I think he’s made huge strides in just making right plays, making the right decisions,” he said. “[Pickett]’s taken huge jumps in the weight room as far as his strength and everything, so I think that will definitely be apparent out there. And Torrence, he’s still knocking down shots. He’s still doing all the right things out there and playing hard, taking charges, everything we can ask him to do. So, I think they’ve all taken huge strides moving forward.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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