COLUMBIA — Jabari Brown walked into assistant coach Tim Fuller’s office one February afternoon with the future on his mind.
Missouri’s star shooting guard, listed in the team program at 6-foot-5, was bemoaning the fact that there aren’t a lot of successful shooting guards who are that height in the NBA.
"I said, 'You're right, but there are some good 6-foot-5 guards,'" Fuller told Brown. "You just have to continue your game and make guard plays."
Two months after that conversation, Brown is ready to find out how he’ll fare in the NBA. He announced his intentions to enter the NBA draft in a press release Wednesday afternoon. The release said Brown will enter his name into the draft so he can receive feedback about his draft stock, which "gives him the opportunity to sign with an agent or return to Missouri for his senior season."
Fellow junior guard Jordan Clarkson, who declared for the draft Monday, is in the process of hiring an agent and will not return to school. Brown, however, will test the waters before completely closing the door to a return. As long as he does not hire an agent, he has until April 15 to withdraw from the draft, which will take place on June 26.
"This was a step I needed to take in order to make the most educated decision possible with regards to my NBA opportunities," Brown said in the release. "My time here at Mizzou has been incredible. This is a special place and a second home for me. However, I must approach this looking at the bigger picture. This is a decision that impacts my family as well and that is most important to me."
Brown led the Southeastern Conference in scoring (19.9 points per game) and minutes played (37 per game).
If Brown hires an agent, the Tigers' top three scorers would be gone. Clarkson (17.5 ppg) and senior Earnest Ross (14 ppg) also won't be returning from a team that snapped Missouri’s streak of five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Factor in contributions from senior Tony Criswell and Stefan Jankovic, who transferred to Hawaii early in the season, and 75.1 percent of the Tigers’ offense will be gone.
Brown finished third in the conference in 3-point percentage (41 percent) and shot almost 80 percent from the free-throw line in his second season at Missouri after transferring from Oregon.
His departure would leave Missouri coach Frank Haith with a roster of uncertainties next season. Freshman guard Namon Wright and 6-foot-7 wing Cam Biedscheid – who will not be eligible during fall semester after transferring from Notre Dame – will likely be asked to make major contributions offensively. The team’s top returning scorers are post players Ryan Rosburg and Johnathan Williams III, who combined for 10.6 points per game this season.
Although Haith's team could be devoid of proven scorers, the third-year coach supported Brown's decision to consider his professional future.
"Jabari's approach to life and basketball is so impressive," Haith said in the release. "So many things right now point for him to enter the draft, hire an agent and move forward, but he will do his due diligence in this process and then make the decision best for him and his family. I am really proud of Jabari and know Tiger fans are too with how he has conducted himself in the face of such great adversity this year."
David Brown, Jabari’s father, was diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma during the season. The cancer has metastasized to the liver and is incurable, according to Brown's mother, Fannie Brown.
Brown learned of the diagnosis during a trip home a day after he made the go-ahead 3-pointer against North Carolina State on Dec. 28. His family kept the news from him so his focus could remain on basketball until he returned to the West Coast.
Despite the heartache off the court, Brown continued to excel on it and was a first-team All-SEC selection.
Draftexpress.com's Jonathan Givony's latest mock draft has Brown being selected in the middle of the 2nd round, 43rd overall by the Denver Nuggets. Givony has Clarkson being taken by the Charlotte Bobcats with the next pick.
Givony questioned if some teams will shy away because of Brown's height.
"He's a tremendous scorer, definitely a phenomenal shooter," Givony said of Brown. "I have a measurement on him that says he’s only 6-foot-3 in shoes, which is a little bit undersized to be an NBA shooting guard."
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.