Spencer Laurie made his Missouri debut Tuesday in the Tigers’ exhibition win against the Asheville Altitude. It was a memorable evening for the Springfield, Mo., native, but not for all the right reasons.
Missouri coach Quin Snyder considered redshirting Laurie, a freshman point guard, but that became improbable when junior Randy Pulley was declared ineligible last week. Until his junior college transfer credits are resolved, Pulley is ineligible indefinitely. Pulling Laurie’s redshirt is an indication that the coaching staff might not expect Pulley back soon.
p>Laurie entered MU’s 74-60 win with 13:43 to play in the first half, replacing starting point guard Jimmy McKinney. As he brought the ball up on his first possession, Laurie and fellow freshman Linas Kleiza got crossed up near midcourt. Laurie tossed the ball toward Kleiza, but an Asheville defender sneaked in and stole the ball.
That’s a frustrating start to a college career, though it was a preseason game.
“I wasn’t happy about it, but little things like that happen,” Laurie said. “You just have to play through it.”
Laurie played a few more possessions and then went back to the bench. He entered the game several times in the second half, missing his first shot, which senior Josh Kroenke converted for a layup.
Laurie’s stat line: nine minutes, three turnovers, three fouls, a steal and a rebound.
Despite the lackluster results, Snyder said he was pleased with Laurie’s performance.
“Any time you play your first college game, and you play it against pros, there will be some things you have to play through,” he said. “I thought Spence really settled down. Jimmy got into a little foul trouble, and Spence did a great job.”
Laurie appears to be the team’s backup point guard and will be called on when McKinney struggles or has foul trouble. Snyder said Laurie’s practice has encourage him, mentioning a few aspects of his game Snyder has focused on.
“The biggest thing for him is to push up the court and guard the ball,” Snyder said. “He has good feet and good lateral quickness.”
It wasn’t until early this week that Laurie found out what the team expects from him this year. He said he appreciates the opportunity to contribute and is willing to fill any role the Tigers need.
“I’m glad I can come in and help the team out however I can,” he said. “The more I get out there, the more I’ll get in the flow.”
LOOKING FOR HELP: Dean Cooper, a scout from the Houston Rockets, watched the game from press row, scouting the Altitude in search of help in case of injuries. Still, he noticed Missouri center Arthur Johnson’s intensity, praising him as “a guy with a lot of hustle that really makes him stand out.”
Conversely, he said swingman Rickey Paulding’s play did not impress him, noting that several early turnovers and a slow release might limit his pro potential.
LATE START: The Tigers must wait 10 days to open the regular season at Oakland University on Nov. 29 in Auburn Hills, Mich. That opening date is the latest in the Big 12 Conference, and, along with Louisville, the latest among teams in the Associated Press’ Top 25.
The Oakland game will be the first time the Tigers start the season on the road since Snyder’s first season with the program.
That opening trip wasn’t Missouri’s best; it lost to Wisconsin 66-55 in the NABC Classic on Nov. 12, 1999, in Syracuse, N.Y.