University of Missouri

Transfer Kassius Robertson’s shooting addresses massive need for Mizzou

Missouri men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.
Missouri men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin. The Associated Press

Shooting the basketball was the Missouri men’s glaring Achilles’ heel last season.

The Tigers fouled too much, but otherwise were slightly above average defensively among NCAA Division I teams.

Shot-making was another story entirely — one that graduate transfer Kassius Robertson, a senior shooting guard from Toronto by way of Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., aims to help fix.

Mizzou ranked 319th or worse in 2016-17 in two-point field-goal percentage, three-point shooting, opponents’ blocked-shot percentage and effective field-goal percentage.

The free-throw line kept the Tigers from being completely inept offensively, but putting the ball in the bucket is the easiest way for the team to improve.

Putting the ball in the bucket also happens to be Robertson’s specialty.

He ranked among the top 200 D-I players in offensive rating, effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage last season.

“I actually just got done watching him shoot for probably 20 minutes and I maybe saw him miss four times,” Missouri junior forward Kevin Puryear said after an early-summer workout. “His shooting ability is very impressive, and it’s something we need to stretch the floor. When we play other teams, he’ll be a monster for us, because he shoots the ball extremely well.”

Robertson made 41 percent of his three-point attempts, which would have led MU by more than 5 percentage points last season (Terrence Phillips, 35.6 percent).

During three seasons at Canisius, Robertson shot 40.3 percent from deep. He led the Golden Griffons in scoring at 16.1 points per game last season.

Despite that prowess, Robertson disputes the notion he’s merely a spot-up shooter.

“I’ve been a career 40 percent three-point shooter because I can put the ball on the floor and get to spots,” he said. “I move well without the ball and I can do some things with the ball, too. I like going to the basket, which has opened up my shot a lot more. I can definitely do a lot more than just catch and shoot.”

The Tigers believe Robertson can be even more efficient in a complementary role.

“The way he’s shooting the ball, he’s a great addition … but he’s also a guy with experience,” new MU coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He’s a guy who’s battle-tested and has been in games. He’s competing at a high level. Anytime you shoot 41 percent being the main guy, that means you shot 41 percent. I can only imagine what his percentage will be if he’s not the focal point of everything you’re doing and now he can just catch and shoot and play.”

That was part of the appeal of coming to Mizzou after finishing a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness at Canisius.

“I wanted to play on a bigger stage, of course, play in the tournament and have a chance to win a national championship,” said Robertson, who is pursuing a master’s degree as part of MU’s positive coaching program. “Also, I wanted to play with really high-caliber players, guys who are going to the NBA and stuff like that. I wanted to throw myself in the fire, survive and get better from it.”

Still, Robertson doesn’t plan to defer to teammates. He’s used to shouldering his weight on offense and plans to keep doing that for the Tigers.

“Coach made it clear that ‘we brought you in here, because we saw what you did at your old school,’ ” Robertson said. “He doesn’t want my aggressiveness to drop off, so I’m definitely into my alpha dog state and trying to compete with the guys and be the best player on the floor every practice and every night.”

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer