Jan. 31, 2014
Every week Mizzou Strategic Communications Student Assistant Jay Wallis will update fans on former Mizzou basketball stars playing professionally.
Phil Pressey (Undrafted in 2013, signed by Celtics):
Mizzou's former star point guard didn't get many opportunities for the first few months of his rookie season. As Rajon Rondo went through rehab due to a torn ACL, Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee played ahead of Pressey most nights.
However, some midseason moves and injuries gave Pressey the chance to prove himself. On Jan. 5, the Celtics traded Lee for Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless. Ten days later, the Celtics included Jordan Crawford in a three-team deal that brought Heat center Joel Anthony to the team. Then on Jan. 21, recently acquired Bayless sprained his toe, sidelining him for 7-10 days. With Rondo back on a minutes restriction, Pressey has given Boston a reason to consider him as a legitimate backup point guard.
During a two-game span against the Raptors and Lakers around mid-January, Pressey racked up 19 total assists, showing off his ability to see the floor and get his teammates the ball where they want it. His moment in the spotlight, though, came on Wednesday, Jan. 22 during a 113-111 overtime victory against the Wizards. Pressey finished with a career-high 20 points and four assists in 35 minutes of playing time. The 5-11 guard found a way to spread the floor with his shooting while also being a threat getting into the lane. Prior to this game, Pressey had made six 3-pointers all season. He had five in this game alone. Even though Jeff Green had the more impressive performance on the night (39 points, nine rebounds, three steals), many of Pressey's teammates praised him for being a force that made their offense run so fluidly.
For the season, Pressey is averaging 2.3 ppg, 2.6 apg and 13.6 mpg. Even with Rondo back and Bayless' eventual return, if Pressey can continue being a distributor while improving his shooting, Head Coach Brad Stevens will be forced to find some minutes for his rookie.
DeMarre Carroll (Drafted in 2009, 27th by Grizzlies):Carroll, like many NBA players don't blossom the moment they step onto the profession scene as they need to find the right role, situation and/or team. After stints in Memphis and Denver, the Utah Jazz traded for the 6-8 swingman early in the 2011-12 season. In almost two full seasons with in Utah, Carroll averaged just under 17 mpg while his play reminded many of his old Missouri nickname : "junkyard dog."
The Hawks signed Carroll to a two-year, $5 million contract this last offseason, in doing so made one of the most underrated moves of the summer. After starting just 22 of his first 173 career games in the league, Carroll has started in all 40 games he's played in this season, while averaging 30.9 mpg. He has progressively become the team's "3-and-D" player, being able to shoot the long ball and guard multiple positions on the defensive end of the floor.
Confidence is a huge factor in an NBA player's ability to find his groove, and the responsibility the Hawks have given Carroll has allowed him to find his confidence. After shooting just 70 3-pointers while with the Jazz last season, Carroll has already taken 131 and is making them at a respectable mark (35.1 percent). On Saturday, Jan. 25, Carroll helped the Hawks steamroll the Bucks, 112-87. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and three 3-pointers. In Carroll's most recent game, he had the arduous task of guarding the currently unstoppable Kevin Durant for the night. He might not have kept Durant from having yet another dominant night but the Hawks forward fought him for 42 minutes. Carroll finished with 15 points and a career-high five steals.
For the season, Carroll is averaging 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals. As the Hawks (23-21) continue to fight to be the three seed in the East and possibly take on one of the East's powerhouses in the second round of the playoffs, Atlanta will rely in Carroll to play his role and be an energy-driven, defensive sparkplug on a nightly basis.
Larry Drew (Drafted in 1980, 17th by Pistons):
After three year as the head coach for the Atlanta Hawks, Drew was hired to lead the Milwaukee Bucks prior to the 2013-14 season. He stepped in and was hired by the Bucks during a rebuilding phase when winning isn't necessarily the focus. Currently standing at 8-36 this season and last in the Eastern Conference, making the playoffs is out of the question for the most part but developing Milwaukee's youth is not.
As the season has moved along, Drew has started giving more minutes to Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson. These three players have the potential to be the building blocks for Drew moving forward. His team may not currently have the pieces to compete at an elite level, but Drew still expects his players to fight night in and night out.
Overseas/D-League Feature Player
Marcus Denmon (Drafted in 2012, 59th by Spurs):
After signing with the French Pro A League club Élan Chalon in the summer of 2012, Denmon unfortunately suffered a broken foot in his new team's opening game. Once he finished that season in France, Denmon took his talents to Turkey, where he signed with the Turkish Beko Basketball League club Tofaş for the 2013-14 season. Through 16 games thus far, Denmon is averaging 15.4 ppg and 3.1 assists per game, as his team holds an 8-8 record. Tofaş recently defeated Türk Telekom 83-79 on Monday, Jan. 27 and Denmon had 12 points and a pair of 3-pointers. Denmon also made the BEKO All-Star Game that took place on Jan. 19, contributing 15 points.