COLUMBIA — With Michael Dixon dressed in black slacks and a matching collared shirt, Phil Pressey shed his warm-ups to reveal his white No. 1 jersey. Then, under dimmed lights and pulsing music, he was introduced as a Missouri starter for the first time.
“It felt like I was in high school again,” Pressey said.
Pressey started his first game for the No. 13 Missouri men’s basketball team on Thursday, and the Tigers won 81-62 against Oral Roberts. Dixon had started every previous game this season, but was suspended on Wednesday for violating a team rule.
Throughout the game, Pressey seemed to be calm and controlled, carrying over some of his consistency that started in Missouri’s victory over Presbyterian on Saturday. After the Presbyterian game, the freshman guard seemed relieved, and admitted he had struggled earlier in the season.
“Every freshman has those times during the year. I was just trying to figure out where my role is or how I could help the team win. I just couldn’t figure it out,” Pressey said.
But, in the past two games, Pressey has become a contributor. After totaling 18 assists in the first eight games of the season, he has 16 in Missouri’s past two games.
Pressey’s passing abilities, as well as his on-court chemistry with fellow freshman Ricky Kreklow, were on display against Oral Roberts.
Five of Pressey’s team-high seven assists came in the first half.
With less than four minutes left to play in the first, Pressey brought the ball up the court and found an open Kreklow on the right side of the 3-point line. Kreklow sank the shot to put Missouri up 29-22. Then, he extended his arm to point a finger at Pressey to acknowledge the assist. The two met in the middle of the court and shared a half-hug before joining their teammates in the huddle of the media timeout.
Just two minutes later, they combined again for another big play.
Kreklow had successfully clamped down on Oral Robert’s Dominique Morrison, who had the ball. Eventually, Morrison threw the ball, hoping to find an open teammate. Instead, the pass found Pressey, who started the Missouri fast break. As he neared the basket, he tossed the ball in a high arc. The crowd groaned, predicting a turnover, but after the ball hit its peak it dropped directly into the hands of Laurence Bowers. Bowers scored, and Missouri continued to outscore Oral Roberts 20-4 to end the first half.
While threading passes to open teammates, Pressey also scored eight points on only six shot attempts, showing an improved shot selection from games earlier this season.
For Pressey, the transition to starting point guard is one that isn’t as tough as some might think. He is his team’s starting point guard in practice every day when the Tigers split up for scrimmages.