Mizzou basketball season unofficially tips off Friday night when the Tigers host Harris-Stowe in an exhibition game at Mizzou Arena. Leading up to tip off, KBIA Sports Extra reporters Ross Taylor and JJ Stankevitz will be discussing what they expect from each of the members on Missouri’s roster this season.
JJ: Laurence Bowers is well-known for his penchant for high-flying dunks, but his offensive game involves so much more than a couple of massive slams. He has great touch around the rim and showed off a fairly consistent outside jump shot stroke—even from beyond the three-point line—in his sophomore year. He was able to accomplish all that without a true low-post presence, so do you see his game moving to the next level with Ricardo Ratliffe in the fold?
Ross: You could see what we saw from Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll two seasons ago, when the two benefitted from having each other on the floor but were in no way reliant on each other. Bowers has never been a true “low-post” type of player, and with Ratliffe willing to absorb much of that contact in the lane this year, maybe Mizzou fans can stop typecasting Bowers based on his position at the 4-spot. At this point, I’m not sure what the “next level” is for Bowers when it comes to points. If he can get the midrange game working in addition to finishing above the rim, he clearly has the capacity to go off on teams. But I think the true next level in the evolution of games will come when he hits the boards on a more consistent basis. We won’t see Bowers at his full potential until that 5.7 rebound per game average from a year ago grows into one in the 8-9 range. Do you think Bowers has the ability to make a significant impact on the boards?
JJ: That’s a good question. Bowers is thin for a 4, but his long wingspan makes up for whatever he lacks in girth. I think he’ll end up between Ratliffe and Safford in the rebounding spectrum, somewhere around six or seven boards a game. Remember, Bowers only had eight games with eight or more rebounds last season, three of which were double-digit rebound games. That may not change, although it’s reasonable to expect a few more rebounds out of Bowers just due to maturity and progression. But 8-9? That’s above what I’m expecting. Although, that’s not a bad thing, because Bowers’ offensive impact may offset not grabbing 8-9 rebounds a game. Maybe the most intriguing aspect of Bowers’ offensive game is his three-point shot. It’s not something he’s going to rely upon, but do you see him taking more three-pointers or still shooting from behind the arc sparingly?
Ross: Before I address your question, I should clarify that my 8-9 rebounds per game figure is probably if his potential is maxed out, not a baseline expectation. As far as his three-point shot is concerned, I can’t envision it as being anything more than a bonus. Given the shooting talent Missouri has surrounded Bowers with, do you really want him pulling up from deep while Dixon, Denmon, and English stand by defenders? I understand that the open shot is always the best one and that Bowers’ ability to draw defenders from the basket with his jumper is one of his better assets, but I’m not ready to hand him the ball and let him start chucking it five or six times a game. There’s a fine line between trying to keep a defense honest and out-thinking yourself with shot selection. Before we wrap this preview up, I have to challenge you to a battle of the YouTubes. I’m taking Bowers’ game-sealing dunk against Kansas State (at 8:53 of the video).
JJ: Nothing can top that K-State dunk. It may not have been the most impressive Bowers has ever had—some of his one-handed lob dunks have been pretty outstanding—but under the circumstances that was the best dunk I’ve ever seen from Bowers. That was the exclamation point on what was arguably Mizzou’s biggest win last year. If anybody out there disagrees, though, be sure to check out this six-minute YouTube video of all of Bowers’ dunks from last year: