This could have all gone so much differently.
There’s a world in which everything that happened this time last year goes so poorly.
What if Michael Porter Jr. committed to Missouri, but he got hurt in his first game and didn’t play again until (at best) the final game of the year. Blake Harris, an exciting point guard who committed to play with Porter, could have transferred at the end of first semester. CJ Roberts might have done the same. And what if on top of all of that, Terrence Phillips got kicked off the team for multiple allegations of harassment.
All of that happened?
Hold on. How the hell is this team going to make the NCAA Tournament?
The answer: Kassius Robertson.
The name didn’t mean much to Mizzou fans last summer. It means a whole hell of a lot now.
Michael Porter Jr.’s much-anticipated (possible) return will steal the headlines Saturday night when the Tigers take the court against Arkansas for Senior Night, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what Robertson’s done this season.
Robertson’s been this team’s rock. He’s been their lone consistent player. He’s scored in double figures in 25 of his 30 games. He’s shot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc in 23 of the 30 games.
Where the heck would this team be without Kassius Robertson, who was at one point thought of as the afterthought grad transfer from Canisius?
He leads Mizzou in scoring (16.6 PPG), steals (1 steal per game) & 3-point field goal percentage (43%).
He leads the SEC in percentage of minutes he’s played in conference play (94%), he’s 6th in true shooting percentage (63%0), 10th in free throw percentage (83%), and 2nd in 3-point field goal percentage (45%).
But comparing Kassius Robertson to his current teammates doesn’t do his season justice. In order to do that, you need to include some historical comparisons.
Robertson’s 95 made 3-pointers are 5th most by any Mizzou player in a single season in the last 20 years, behind only Clarence Gilbert (twice), Kareem Rush & Marcus Denmon.
The only Missouri players in the last 25 years to average more points per game in a single season than Kassius Robtertson’s 16.6 points per game are Kareem Rush, Jabari Brown, Paul O’Liney, Thomas Gardner, Melvin Booker, Marcus Denmon, Jordan Clarkson, Rickey Paulding, Clarence Gilbert & DeMarre Carroll.
In other words, he’s up there with some of the all-time Missouri greats.
Let’s take it a step further.
The only SEC players in the last 10 years to shoot a higher percentage from beyond the arc than Robertson (min. 215 attempts) are Michael Frazier, John Jenkins and K.T. Harrell.
We’re talking about one of the best 3-point shooters in the SEC in the last decade.
You get the point. Kassius Robertson wasn’t just a good player this season. He was a great player. He parachuted into Columbia to be a supporting actor in a blockbuster show with Michael Porter Jr. and Cuonzo Martin. Instead, he took the lead and became a star.
It’s hard to imagine where this team would be without Kassius Robertson. It’s hard to believe they would have a record above .500. That’s no shot at the rest of the roster. It’s more a testament to how great Robertson has been.
Missouri lost a transcendent talent in Michael Porter Jr. and replaced his production with a grad transfer from Canisus. That’s not supposed to work. But work it did, to the tune of Missouri’s best record since 2014, and the Tigers’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.
I don’t think you can overstate how important Kassius Robertson has been. Not just for this team, but for the program. Imagine if Cuonzo Martin started his career at Missouri on a sour note – finishing this season at or around .500. Maybe next year is better, but it very well may not be. At that point it’s entirely possible Martin would have gone into year three on the hot seat.
Instead, Martin is beloved in Columbia as the man who directed the turnaround – and he should be. But it’s not hard to see how this could have gone south.
Mizzou fans can thank Kassius Robertson for not allowing that to happen.
Here’s to you, Kassius from Canisus. The best grad transfer in the country, the season saver for Mizzou, and one of the most important Tigers players of the last decade.