University of Missouri

Why former Mizzou basketball star Jordan Barnett struggled in the G-League this past year

On July 2 at the NBA Summer League in California, Jordan Barnett looked like the player Missouri fans saw his last two years of college.

Playing for the San Antonio Spurs, Barnett caught a pass off a fastbreak and threw down a one-handed dunk over a defender, drawing reaction from all over Twitter and his former coach Cuonzo Martin.

Highlights like that were a nightly occasion for Barnett, especially during his senior year at MU, when he averaged 13.7 points per game while shooting 41 percent from three-point territory. But during his rookie year in the NBA G-League, Barnett struggled to show what made him a pro prospect.

Playing for the Wisconsin Herd and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Barnett averaged 5.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game while playing roughly 18 minutes a night. More noteworthy, was Barnett’s three-point shooting percentage, which was just 29 percent, a major drop-off from the shooter he was in college.

“It was a learning process for sure,” Barnett told The Star. “When you first get to the G-League, you don’t expect all these guys there to have actual game, but there’s killers in the G-League. There’s some really good players there. That was a rude awakening early, but the more I got used to it, the better I played.”

Through two games in summer league, Barnett is averaging 8.5 points and four rebounds per game. He’s shooting 50 percent from three, but has only taken four shots from behind the arc. Barnett said his confidence wavered at times in the G-League, which caused him to pass up shots.

Barnett has been more encouraged to shoot with the Spurs and has enjoyed being tutored by the team’s summer league coach, Becky Hammon. The second female assistant coach in NBA history, Hammon is considered one of the league’s top assistants and could become the first female head coach in league history.

“She definitely knows a lot,” Barnett said. “She’s played the game. She’s shown it numerous times that she knows a whole lot, more than we know for sure.”

Barnett’s had some familiar faces at his games, as former Missouri star DeMarre Carroll has been on the sidelines for a few of the Spurs games. Carroll recently signed a three-year deal with the team and lingered by the locker room after Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns to talk with the players and staff.

Barnett also played against the Hornets, who have his former teammate Kassius Robertson on the roster, but Robertson was unable to get in the game, to Barnett’s disappointment.

“I’m rooting for him,” Robertson said. “He fits exactly what the Spurs do.”

Barnett isn’t sure where he will play next year, but he’s hoping for a training camp invite with an NBA team. Beyond that, he is open to playing overseas or in the G-League depending upon how things shake out. Next season, he hopes to put up numbers similar to what he had at Missouri and prove he’s moved on from his rookie struggles.

“Wherever the best opportunity is, that’s where I’ll be,” he said.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.