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Can a fresh start at Missouri help Deuce Bello tap into his potential?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Deuce Bello (Getty Images)

As soon as the first report surfaced Monday morning that Missouri had landed Baylor transfer Deuce Bello, Tigers fans on social media responded in a wide variety of ways.

Some lauded Bello's potential, posting high school highlight reels in which the 6-foot-4 wing showcased an explosive first step to the rim, impressive length and athleticism and an array of high-flying dunks. Others wondered why Missouri would want a player who averaged a modest 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds last season for a Baylor program that wasn't exactly loaded at the shooting guard and small forward spots.

So, which side of the debate is right? Well, in a lot of ways, both of them.

Bello is a classic boom-or-bust transfer because of his elite talent but lack of production. Missouri has to hope that a change of scenery, more playing time and a year to sit out and develop his game will help Bello tap into the immense potential that made him a top 60 recruit in the Class of 2011.

Hailed as a key piece of Baylor's future when he arrived along with high school teammate Quincy Miller two years ago, Bello made minimal impact in his two seasons in Waco. He averaged just over 10 minutes per game both seasons, occasionally injecting energy with hustle plays and highlight-worthy dunks but shooting too poorly from the free throw line and the perimeter to justify a greater role.

With veterans Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin returning for Baylor and incoming guards Allerik Freeman and Kenny Chery set to contribute right away, it's unlikely Bello would have seen more playing time as a junior. As a result, he announced earlier this month that he was leaving Baylor in search of a school where he'd receive more playing time.

Missouri has become a destination for elite transfers under coach Frank Haith, but the question will be whether the Tigers are the appropriate fit for Bello.

He could have dropped down a level and ensured himself ample opportunity to play for a mid-major program from his native North Carolina. Instead he's risking that he'll develop enough to crack Missouri's lineup as a junior, a starting five that could feature the likes of Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and Oregon transfer Jabari Brown at the wings if both are still around.

Missouri's up-tempo style fits Bello's knack for defending the perimeter and finishing in transition, but he needs to develop a more well-rounded game between now and the end of the summer of 2014.

If he does, his transfer could be a coup for Missouri. If not, he could get lost in the shuffle the same way he did at Baylor.

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