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Phil Pressey makes curious decision to turn pro despite erratic junior season

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Phil Pressey (Getty Images)

If the goal for most NBA prospects is to enter the draft when their stock is highest, then Phil Pressey missed the mark a bit.

The Missouri point guard announced Wednesday that he's forgoing his senior season and turning pro even though he was much more consistent as a sophomore than he was as a junior.

In leading Missouri to a Big 12 tournament title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament during the 2011-12 season, Pressey showcased an ability to blow by his defender, get in the lane and finish himself or create for his teammates. The pass-first point guard averaged 10.3 points per game and boasted an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 3-to-1.

[Also: Top recruits say they would beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in his prime]

Pressey began his junior season as the SEC's preseason player of the year, but he could not duplicate the consistency he displayed as a sophomore. The dismissal of combo guard Michael Dixon early this season forced Pressey to initiate the offense in almost every late-clock situations, a season-long burden he did not appear ready to shoulder by himself.

Though he increased his scoring average to 11.9 points per game, his shooting percentage dropped from 42.9 as a sophomore to 37.6 as a junior and his jump shot remained erratic at best. A constant problem for Missouri was Pressey's exasperating decision-making down the stretch in close games, whether it was taking ill-advised shots early in the clock or trying to thread passes to teammates through traffic.

Pressey still has enough quickness and court vision to at least intrigue NBA scouts, but at this point he is projected to be just a mid-to-late second-round pick. A point guard who's generously listed at 5-11 and and hasn't shown the ability to hit outside shots consistently needs to be more polished than Pressey was this past season in other facets of his game to have much chance of being a first-round pick.

The question of whether Pressey is making the right decision turning pro now rather than waiting another year probably comes down to how much he could have improved as a senior.

If he could have improved his jump shot and made better decisions with the ball in his hands and the game on the line, perhaps he could have elevated his stock back to where it was after his sophomore season. If the same problems that emerged during his junior year popped up again as a senior, maybe it would have solidified in the minds of NBA scouts that he wasn't worth being selected at all.

[Also: NBA-bound Michael Carter-Williams: I can go No. 1 overall]

Regardless, Missouri will definitely miss his ability to create off the dribble.

Already losing Laurence Bowers, Alex Oriakhi and Keion Bell to graduation off a team that lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, Missouri now will have only one of its five leading scorers back. Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross will become the Tigers' primary perimeter scorers, but they'll need to find a primary ball handler and some help for Tony Criswell in the post to avoid taking a big step backward next season.

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