COLUMBIA— Negus Webster-Chan walked by, whispered the words, his wrists forming an X as they crossed his chest.
Jabari Brown smiled, and looked in his teammates' direction.
South Carolina State (4-6)
at No. 12 Missouri (8-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
TV: Fox Sports Midwest
A mob of reporters missed the scene, their backs turned, voice recorders shoved in the direction of Brown, a redshirt sophomore guard.
It’s an inside joke between Brown and the team, a slogan that was started by Webster-Chan on Twitter.
The wrists? Handcuffs. The words? #FREEBARI.
Brown, a transfer from Oregon, will be playing in his first game for the Tigers on Monday after sitting out a year.
But for Brown, it’s been closer to two years. He transferred from Oregon after playing in only two games, stating that he simply did not fit in with the Ducks' style of play.
The former five-star recruit is a scorer, averaging 23.8 points per game his senior season in high school, and that’s not all.
“I’m a competitor,” Brown said. “I play defense, and try to make more of an effort to defensive rebounding and commit myself to rebound every possession. I can get my teammates involved. I feel like I’m a complete player, not just a shooter.”
Missouri could certainly use a scoring threat on offense, especially after guard Michael Dixon Jr. announced his transfer from the team. But Brown is in no way trying to replace Dixon, he just understands how it changes his role on the court.
“I feel like I might have to take on a little bit of a larger load maybe,” Brown said. “But, I’m not saying since Mike’s gone, I’ve got to come in and score X amount of points or anything like that. I just know he was a great player, so obviously everybody’s got to step up collectively to do what he would have done.”
There is a lot of excitement over Brown’s arrival, and Missouri coach Frank Haith knows it. He has stated that there is no immediate role yet for the 6-foot-5 guard, stressing that he does not want Brown to try too hard coming out of the gate.
“We need him just to be Jabari Brown. Not to be Mike Dixon. Not to be Marcus Denmon. Just be Jabari,” Haith said.
Even though Brown has been practicing with the team all season long, it will take time for him to adjust to the offense. He will be mixed into a rotation of guards that feature Phil Pressey, Keion Bell, Earnest Ross and Webster-Chan.
“Now that we add Jabari, we’ve just now got to bring him along to where we’re at, get him filled in with how the offense is on the court,” Ross said.
Brown’s arrival comes at a good time. Missouri (8-1) has three more games until conference play begins, one of which is the Braggin’ Rights game against currently undefeated and No. 10-ranked Illinois.
The No. 12 Tigers play Monday against South Carolina State (4-6) at 7 p.m. at Mizzou Arena, and Brown is finally free to play.
“It’s a weird feeling, because I’ve never just not played for a year, so it’s kind of hard to explain,” Brown said. “I’m ready to jump in.”