Depending on what junior Jabari Brown learns from his NBA evaluation, there’s a chance he might return to Missouri next season.
He left the door open when he decided not to sign with an agent, giving him until April 15 to decide if he wants to return to the Tigers.
Most mock drafts list Brown, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who led the SEC in scoring at 19.9 points per game, as a second-round pick. That means no guaranteed money and a much longer shot to make an NBA roster.
Still, the allure of the NBA often proves powerful and Missouri could be in a tough spot if Brown bolts.
Brown, senior Earnest Ross and junior Jordan Clarkson, who declared for the NBA Draft on Monday and will sign with Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, accounted for 70.5 percent of the Tigers’ points, 65.9 percent of assists, 60.2 percent of steals and 38.7 percent of rebounds.
Without Brown, Missouri’s top returning scorer would be Johnathan Williams III, who averaged 5.8 points as a freshman and led the Tigers in rebounding at 6.5 per game.
Williams will be expected to make dramatic strides after a summer in the weight room and with a year of experience under his belt.
The other returning players — Ryan Rosburg, Wes Clark, Torren Jones, Keanau Post, Corey Haith, Shane Rector and Danny Feldmann — combined for 12.3 points per game.
Rosburg emerged as a solid contributor, but he’s a role player not a game-changer.
Clark, Jones and Post showed flashes of potential, but also proved to be quite raw and inconsistent. All three should see an expanded role, but none are likely to replace substantially the production of Brown, Clarkson and Ross.
Still, Missouri’s predicament isn’t entirely dire.
The Tigers have three players who will become eligible during the 2014-15 season — juniors Deuce Bello and Zach Price and sophomore Cameron Biedscheid.
Bello, a transfer from Baylor, played in 66 games during two seasons in Waco, Texas. He’s being groomed to take the reins at point guard along with Clark, who will be a sophomore.
Price, a transfer from Louisville, started seven games for the eventual NCAA champion Cardinals when Gorgui Deng was injured. He appeared in 35 games during two seasons under Rick Pitino.
Neither is a transfer of the caliber of Brown or Clarkson.
Finally, Biedscheid, who will become eligible at semester, played in 34 games as a freshman at Notre Dame, averaging 6.2 points and 1.4 rebounds. He opted to redshirt this season before transferring to Missouri.
Biedscheid was the 2012 Mr. Show-Me Basketball, Missouri Gatorade player of the year and a Parade All-American after averaging 31.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals as a senior at Cardinal Ritter College Prep in St. Louis.
He be a swingman, seeing time at the two and three next season, and has the greatest potential to emerge as a go-to scorer among the players already on Missouri’s roster.
Of course, the final piece to the puzzle — at least for now — is the Tigers’ two incoming freshmen, forward Jakeenan Gant and guard Namon Wright.
Gant was recently named Mr. Basketball in Georgia and could provide the interior scoring threat Missouri lacked last season. The 6-foot-8 four-star recruit averaged 21.0 points and 10.5 rebounds with 4.0 blocks and 2.8 assists.
Wright’s presence might help offset the potential loss of Brown. He is a well-rounded shooting guard, adept as a scorer from the perimeter and slashing to the rim in addition to showing the potential to become a lock-down defender.
Undeniably, there is talent, but for the fourth time in four season coach Frank Haith will be dealing with essentially a new team.
That will make rebounding from a 23-12 campaign that saw Missouri’s streak of five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances come to an end potentially tenuous.