Things may work out for Pressey after all

Sports Commentary

When Phil Pressey announced he was making himself available for the NBA Draft, one thought crossed the minds of Missouri Tiger basketball fans.

Huh?

That will happen when you watch your team’s starting point guard have a direct hand in letting five leads slither away in the final 30 seconds of a game in the just completed season.

Heading into his junior season, Pressey was touted not just a very good college basketball player, he was supposedly one of the best. As Missouri headed into its first season in the Southeastern Conference, Pressey was the preseason selection to be the league’s player of the year.

And there were times he played like it. His performance against UCLA was one of the best in Missouri history, totaling 19 points and 19 assists in a 97-94 overtime loss in Los Angeles.

But then there were the Pressey moments that Missouri fans will never forget, lowlighted by a game at Texas A&M.

Down 12 with less than six minutes remaining, the Tigers rallied to take a one-point lead with about a minute to play. An Aggie turnover gave the ball back to the Tigers, who had a chance to be patient and wait for a foul with one of the best point guards in the country.

Pressey proceeded to almost immediately chuck the ball out of bounds. Not even close to a teammate on Missouri’s 16th turnover of the game. Texas A&M hit a 3-pointer to regain the lead and take a 70-68 victory.

So Pressey, who could look so good for 30-35 minutes before undoing all that work with a spastic final five minutes where he looked more like a chucker at the YMCA than an NBA prospect, had a little bit of work to do for scouts.

Except he didn’t.

In a story in the Kansas City Star, ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford got to feel what it was like to be a Missouri fan as Pressey slipped from outstanding point guard to ball hog.

“You’re almost screaming at him from the sidelines, ‘No, no, just keep passing it, and a team will take you in the first round,’” Ford was quoted as saying.

Sounds about right.

There was Twitter chatter during Thursday night’s draft that some teams were interested in selecting Pressey. But as all 60 picks came and went, there was no mention of his name.

And frankly, in Pressey’s current situation, it was good thing there wasn’t.

Only first-round picks get guaranteed money, so second-round selections can be jettisoned almost on a whim.

Undrafted, Pressey got the chance to pick where he wanted to sign and that was with the Boston Celtics. He will join the Celtics for the Summer League team, which begins play July 7 in Orlando. Fla.

He won’t be the only Tiger playing professionally this summer.

Alex Oriakhi, a second-round draft pick by the Phoenix Suns, and Laurence Bowers, signed Friday as a free agent by the Memphis Grizzlies, will be in Summer League action with their respective organizations July 12-22 in Las Vegas.

Oriakhi being drafted Thursday was a bit of a surprise. He can provide a big physical presence for Phoenix, but he needs to continue to show improvement on the offensive end.

It’s great to see Bowers get a chance with his hometown team. At 6-8, it’s tough to see a position for him and after battling through knee injuries the past couple of seasons, it’s easy to see why teams didn’t want to spend a draft pick on him.

So of the three ex-Tigers, who has the best shot at seeing time in the NBA next season?

It’s Pressey, who is joining a team that’s rebuilding. So if his goal was to make it to the league, I guess his decision to leave a year early wasn’t so bad after all.

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