University of Missouri

Cuonzo Martin needs this Mizzou guard to keep his 'edge' — and cut down on turnovers

Missouri’s Jordan Geist plans to improve ball handling

Jordan Geist enters his senior season at Mizzou knowing he will play lots of minutes at point guard for the Tigers. He said on June 6, 2018 that he wants to spend this summer working on playing under control more often.
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Jordan Geist enters his senior season at Mizzou knowing he will play lots of minutes at point guard for the Tigers. He said on June 6, 2018 that he wants to spend this summer working on playing under control more often.

Jordan Geist must wait months before he can quiet naysayers who question whether he is fit to be the Missouri Tigers’ primary point guard yet again. He plans to fill that time primarily working on one thing: slowing down.

“I just want to be able to make the right decision,” Geist said on Wednesday, Mizzou’s third day of summer workouts.

Through his own play and roster attrition, Geist — once a combo guard — emerged as MU’s primary point guard and played 30-plus minutes in nine of Mizzou’s final 10 games this past season. His grit made him one of coach Cuonzo Martin’s favorites, but Geist admits that he sometimes was too eager to make a move, so he made the wrong one. According to Synergy data, Geist's turnover percentage of 20.7 was third-worst among players who finished the season with Missouri, behind only center Jeremiah Tilmon and walk-on guard Brett Rau.

Geist, who shot 36.7 percent from three as a junior, figures to be Missouri’s starting point guard against next season, ahead of true freshman Xavier Pinson. And Geist knows he must reduce the frequency of his turnovers. Martin believes the rising senior can average six assists per game — but only if he stops giving the ball away 1.7 times per game, as he did a season ago.

He was looser with the ball in half-court settings than in transition, and Geist said he sometimes rushed into decisions rather than read the floor.

Geist thinks next season will provide an even greater challenge than his junior year. He won’t be adjusting to an increase in minutes, but he said he will try to be “the guy on this team to get people where they need to go, (to) tell them what they need to do.” That could be the on-court manifestation of Geist’s effort to become an outspoken leader for Mizzou, something teammates have noticed and mentioned.

Martin tells Geist to make it a goal to go full practices and games without turnovers. But he wants the point guard to maintain a “carefree style,” rather than play with fear of making another mistake.

“It starts in practice, be able to flow and play how you know you’re able to play,” Martin said. “Being able to focus on the ball, make good decision, and be a vocal leader. I think he has it in him.”

Of course, it is June. Martin can be optimistic that Geist will be better and that Pinson, who weighed just 158 pounds last month, will be able to make a smooth transition to the college game, both physically and mentally.

From the outside, the point guard position is arguably Mizzou’s greatest cause for concern. After Pinson and Geist, Martin said he will rely on forward Jontay Porter and freshmen guards Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett for ball-handling relief.

“I feel fine with that,” Martin said. “Right now, you’ve got Geist and Xavier. I feel fine with that.”

Martin said Geist “lost a little fire” when he knew there was no one to challenge him for playing time. Near the end of the season, when the coach would get upset at Geist’s play, he’d briefly sub in Rau, but that punishment hurt the Tigers too much on the court.

Perhaps Pinson can push Geist, who Martin believes “has to keep that edge” to be at his best. But even without a freshman at his position joining the roster, Geist seemed on Wednesday to have enough motivators, "a bunch of games that come to mind" when he thinks about how he must become more reliable.

“I always like a challenge,” Geist said. “I’m up for it.”

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