COLUMBIA — Phil Pressey was thinking pass. Alex Oriakhi wasn’t.
After spinning around a defender five feet from the basket, Pressey dumped a pass to the senior transfer Oriakhi, who unexpectedly bobbled the ball. A defender quickly reacted and grabbed a steal.
It’s only the preseason, and the Missouri men's basketball team still beat Missouri Southern by 26 points Sunday. But in two games, Pressey had 11 turnovers, and the team had 41.
“We need to not turn the ball over as much,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said, smiling. “We were trying to go too fast. We’re trying to get the home run play. That starts from out front with Phil in settling down a little bit.”
But Pressey is still adjusting.
The Southeastern Conference Preseason Player of the Year has experience from last season with only two players on this year’s team — forward Laurence Bowers and guard Michael Dixon.
Last year, Pressey averaged 2.4 turnovers a game, but that statistic might grow at the start of this season as he gets accustomed to his new teammates, and, more importantly, his new teammates get accustomed to Pressey.
“Those guys knew my game (last year). They knew the pass I was going to make,” Pressey said. “They just had a good feel for me. The more we play together, the younger guys and the transfers, the better we are going to become.”
Oriakhi knows Pressey’s game. After all, Pressey was one of the primary reasons why Oriakhi transferred to Missouri. They played together back in their Amateur Athletic Union days. But that was a long time ago.
“It’s going to be like that for the first couple of games until he (Oriakhi) gets a good feel for it,” Pressey said. “I haven’t played with Alex since I was in eighth or ninth grade. It’s going to take time, and as time goes on, we’re going to be a better team.”
Later in the game, Pressey once again drove the lane, drawing two defenders. He faked a pass to the right and flung the ball left to a wide-open Negus Webster-Chan, who hit a wide-open 3-pointer from the perimeter.
Despite the turnovers, Pressey is still accumulating assists. Today he led the team with seven, and in two exhibition wins he has 18. Last year, he averaged 6.4 per game.
The Tigers have six days until their regular season opener against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday. They’re still getting used to each other but are seeing improvements with each game.
“It’s a lot different in practice than it is in a game. I just feel the more we play with each other, the easier it will become,” Pressey said.
“And I’m going to try and limit those turnovers.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.