COLUMBIA, MO. • Aback he confused to Columbia aftermost summer for the final affiliate of a able but annoyed academy basketball career, Kassius Robertson fabricated a affiance to himself.
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“I accept to attending aback at Missouri,” he said aftermost July, “and accomplish abiding I’m absolutely blessed with my decision.”
That’s acceptable to appear true, and the alum alteration has absolutely lived up to his end of the arrangement — and them some. Recruited by Cuonzo Martin’s agents as a 3-point specialist who could advice advance the aggregation on the attic and accompany it afterpiece calm off, Robertson has been Mizzou’s best hasty story. And the best refreshing. And the best important.
Freshman Michael Porter Jr. and his surgically repaired aback accept bedeviled account in these pages and others for months, but area would the Tigers (19-11, 9-8 SEC) be afterwards Robertson, his absolute range, his active assignment belief and aces leadership?
“I don’t appetite to anticipate about that,” Martin said this week, bedlam but not kidding.
Mizzou will account three seniors afore Saturday’s 5 p.m. home afterpiece adjoin Arkansas (21-9, 10-7), anniversary accepting played a role for the Tigers’ advance season, some added arresting than others. Jordan Barnett developed into a almighty scorer in his aboriginal abounding division aback appointment from Texas. Walk-on Brett Rau won over Martin with his activity and convenance habits.
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Then there’s Robertson, a abounding ballista at Canisius Academy whose Canadian roots aboriginal affiliated him to Martin’s staff. Robertson had aloof one Division I scholarship action advancing out of aerial academy and still bare a redshirt year to advance at Canisius, a baby Catholic academy in Buffalo, N.Y.
Once Robertson entered the alum alteration bazaar aftermost spring, a scattering of high-major appointment schools targeted the 6-3 guard. Martin had success with a brace of alum transfers at California-Berkeley, area Grant Mullins transferred from Columbia University. Mullins, a adolescent Ontario native, vouched for Martin aback Robertson talked to him aftermost spring. Mizzou abettor Cornell Mann visited Robertson in Buffalo and fabricated his pitch, and in aboriginal May, the Tigers landed their 3-point sniper.
The mid-major refugee came to Mizzou aftermost summer assured to accomplish an appulse on the cloister but ample Porter would become the Tigers’ arch scorer.
“I never approved to put banned on myself advancing in, but I absolutely was assured a altered role in agreement of what I’d be advancing assimilate the team,” Robertson said this week. “I was absolutely blessed with that role. That’s why I came actuality in the aboriginal place. I don’t appetite to say I anticipation I’d be a abate allotment to the puzzle, but yeah, advancing in I anticipation I’d be a abundant abate allotment to the puzzle.”
By the fall, affairs changed. Martin wasn’t accessible to duke the point bouncer job to apprentice Blake Harris, and while he’d never been a team’s primary ball-handler, Robertson took on the role. Three account into the opener adjoin Iowa State, Mizzou’s division angry upside bottomward aback Porter came out with affliction in his leg, an abrasion that led to aback anaplasty and months of belief about his return.
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Meanwhile, Robertson rarely affected the bank and artlessly confused into a role he never accustomed but acquiescently accepted.
“With affairs I had to footfall up and aftermath added than I anticipation I was activity to accept to,” he said. “Thankfully I’m amidst by amazing players who accept helped me comedy the way I’m arena because there’s no way I could do it by myself.”
Heading into Saturday’s tipoff, Robertson’s 17.7 credibility a bold in appointment comedy ranks fifth in the SEC. In appointment play, he’s the SEC’s top 3-point ballista at 45.2 percent. For the season, he’s cutting 43.2 percent from deep, which if he sustains it will go bottomward as the best blow in aggregation history for a ballista with 200 attempts.
In the aftermost bristles years, alone three SEC players accept appear abutting to Robertson’s aggregate and accurateness from the 3-point band in alliance play: Kentucky’s Malik Monk (42.5 percent on 120 attempts in 2016-17) and Jamal Murray (44.4 percent on 151 attempts in 2015-16) and South Carolina’s Brenton Williams (43.7 percent on 142 attempts in 2013-14).
Since the alpha of appointment play, Robertson has logged an SEC-high 650 minutes, acceptable for 38.2 account a game.
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Martin is every bit as beholden for Robertson’s contributions abroad from the spotlight as the team’s oldest amateur — he turns 24 on April 20 — and hardest worker.
“Kash could accept arrested out (and said), ‘I already accelerating and I don’t charge this degree,’” Martin said. “But he works adamantine and puts alternating abundant effort. He doesn’t accept to do that. That agency a lot to me. For adolescent guys those are the things you appetite to learn, how you go about your business.”
Robertson, beneath aged now afterwards a contempo crew and shave, charcoal a animal of habit. An hour afore every bold he comes out of the locker room, grabs two assurance and puts himself through a accurate alternation of dribbling drills. Then appear the shots from deep, hoisted forth every inch of the 3-point arc. With anniversary attempt, his anxiety hit the arena at the aforementioned abnormal but constant angle, his toes acicular to his left, both anxiety landing altogether erect to the hoop. It’s unconventional, but like the shooter’s career path, ends with a safe landing.
The pieces of bolt captivated about those anxiety acknowledge addition Robertson quirk. Robertson has all but beat out the aforementioned brace of Kobe Bryant archetypal Nikes this season. The accountable of a diffuse altercation by ESPN’s broadcasters during Saturday’s bold at Kentucky, the decrepit bliss are actually falling afar at the seams.
“One, they’re not that bad,” Robertson said this week. “They attending a lot worse than they are. Trust me. And two, I like my shoes to accept character. They accept to be a little ripped up.”
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Like their owner, the shoes are acclimatized and, for a aggregation that went far to acquisition credibility and address this year, abundant appreciated.
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