Before Jordan Barnett became eligible after the season’s first nine games, Missouri coach Kim Anderson was careful not to heap expectations on the Texas transfer that were too great.
But with the Tigers riding a seven-game losing streak, Anderson’s tone has changed.
“We need a guy who’s a little bit selfish that can produce,” Anderson said. “I think Jordan has that potential to do that.”
If only Barnett — a junior forward from Christian Brothers College High in St. Louis, who is now MU’s leading scorer at 12.5 points per game — can find a mean streak.
“If you had a daughter, you’d want her to date Jordan Barnett,” Anderson said. “He’s a good guy. He does a great job in school, he’s great to be around, he’s a good teammate, but he’s just got to be a little meaner (on the court).”
Barnett averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during losses against Eastern Illinois and Illinois, his first two games with Mizzou.
He’s heated up in the last four games, scoring at least 15 points and grabbing at least six rebounds during that stretch.
Barnett is averaging 17 points and 9.3 rebounds since he was inserted into the starting lineup for the nonconference finale against Lipscomb.
During Southeastern Conference play, Barnett is one of only two players, including Georgia’s Yante Maten, who ranks in the top eight in scoring and rebounding.
Still, Mizzou needs even more from Barnett.
“You have to take that step from being a role player, which he was the last year and a half at Texas, but he certainly wasn’t a role player in high school,” Anderson said. “He has to step up and make some plays and maybe be a little bit selfish, because he’s capable of doing that. … Every game, he’s gotten better, but I think there’s still more in the tank.”
Barnett’s kind nature made him deferential to his teammates, but he understands what’s being asked of him.
“I feel like I’m working on it,” Barnett said. “I feel like I’m starting to be more aggressive. It’s just a matter of being more comfortable out there. I feel like I’m getting there. I guess they need me to step up, and I’m prepared to do that.”
Mizzou has seen enough from Barnett — who scored a career-high 20 points Tuesday against Auburn — at practice to know he’s capable of delivering even more during games.
“He’s trying to play within the system and figure out his role, but he can definitely be more aggressive,” sophomore guard Terrence Phillips said. “That’s what we want him to be. I’ve seen him really shoot the ball when we’re at practice and take over those situations of the games we play.”
Barnett’s teammates want to see the alpha dog emerge in a game — preferably starting at Arkansas on Saturday.
“JB has it in him,” said sophomore forward Kevin Puryear, a Blue Springs South graduate. “We all agree that he’s a little passive sometimes, but these past couple games he’s taken some initiative. I like to see that out of him. He’s very capable of doing a lot of good things for us.”
Anderson said Barnett is a good three-point shooter — though he’s only made 8 of 37 (21.6 percent) this season. Barnett is most dangerous with the mid-range jumper, and Anderson would also like to see him post up more against smaller players.
“He’s got some ability that he hasn’t used yet, and hopefully we can draw that out of him,” Anderson said. “... The other night I think I got mad at him and said, ‘You don’t realize how good you are. You don’t realize how good you could be.’”
Barnett is shooting 54.3 percent inside the three-point arc, making 19 of 35 shots.
“If I start hitting more shots and taking better shots and playing faster maybe, then I feel like everything will be fine,” Barnett said.