COLUMBIA — Talk of Jabari Browns shooting prowess has abounded for the better part of a year, but Missouri coach Frank Haith does not want to burden Brown who is expected to make his debut for the Tigers tonight with unrealistic expectations.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Weve got to understand, heres a guy that hasnt played in a year and will be playing (tonight) for the first time in a long time, Haith said. Large expectations have to be tempered a little bit about what he can do on day one.
Still, Haiths next words reveal another truth; there is no denying the talent of Brown, a former five-star prospect who has patiently bided his time on MUs bench adhering to NCAA transfer rules after he abruptly left Oregon after only two games last season.
Here I say that, and he might go out and get 30, Haith said.
Brown, a 6-foot-5 sophomore swingman from Oakland, Calif., was listed by Rivals.com as the No. 19 prospect in the Class of 2011. He averaged 23.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as a senior in high school, many of them of the three-point variety.
Brown, as Haith and teammates have noted many times over the last several months, is a shooter perhaps the best on the team. And theres no doubt Missouri, 8-1, can use a player with that particular skill as a remedy to the zone defenses theyve seen so far this season.
That is a need of ours, Haith said, having somebody out there that can continue stretching the defense and help out our cohesiveness on the offensive end.
In that way, Brown figures to a fill the role that 6-foot-11 freshman forward Stefan Jankovic has been thrust into this season, that of a zone-busting outside shooter. But Haith wants Brown to be more than that.
Jabari is a shooter we need him to be a scorer, Haith said. We need him to be a guy that can score off the bounce a bit and be a great defender, and I think he can do those things.
In fact, Haith said Brown can be as good defensively as he wants to be, so the staff needs to continue to challenge him to be really good on the defensive end. And while it may be tempting to think that Brown could help make up for some of the ballhandling Missouri lost with Michael Dixon Jr., Haith was quick to add that junior Phil Pressey, freshman Negus Webster-Chan and senior Keion Bell will remain MUs primary ballhandlers.
From a ballhandling standpoint, hes getting better, Haith said of Brown. Hes not going to play the point; Negus is our secondary ballhandler and Keion being the third, so hes somewhere behind there in terms of ballhandling.
Hes got good enough ball skills to go get his shot if the three is not there, so you like that. Hes like Marcus (Denmon) in that regard. He cans straight line drive you and get fouled, hes got good size and hes a good athlete.
Brown, for his part, seems to understand his role.
I talked to the coaches and they just want me to play hard, rebound and play defense, Brown said. On offense be a guy that Phil can kick out to and hit shots and be a guy that can attack the basket and get my teammates involved as well.
They want me to do everything.
And though Haith has been reticent about the extent Brown will play he has been coy about whether or not Brown will start tonight theres little doubt Brown is in line to earn significant minutes, particularly since his shooting ability could open the floor for a creator like Pressey.
I can hit shots from anywhere, said Brown, who admitted that he might feel a few jitters tonight
But again, Haith doesnt want Brown to feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. Its a long season, after all, and he doesnt need his new weapon to do a Denmon or Dixon impersonation. Being himself is plenty good enough.
I dont want him to feel like he has to be Marcus Denmon or Mike Dixon, Haith said. I just want him to be Jabari Brown.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.