Here is the Supermizzou final player evaluation for the 2002-2003 season:
Rickey Paulding - Missouri's leading scorer on the season with a 17.4 ppg average. Paulding also averaged five and half boards a game and shot 80% from the free throw line. He was a 45% shooter from the field and shot 39% from the arc. Paulding also lead the Tigers in minutes played this past season. Sweet Rickey really started to exert himself at the end of the season after a relatively slow start by his standards. Incidentally, it was right about the time that high-scoring 2004 transfer Jason Conley appeared on campus and in practices that Paulding's game suddenly elevated several notches. Reportedly, Conley pushed Paulding repeatedly in practice to be more aggressive. Paulding finished the season with a monster 36 point performance vs. Final Four participant Marquette. Paulding is the yin to Arthur Johnson's yang as far as Missouri's outside-inside game goes. Despite the scattered rumors to the contrary, Supermizzou has been told by sources close to the program and Paulding will be back in Columbia for his senior season.
Arthur Johnson - Nobody has improved as much as has AJ each year he has been at Mizzou. AJ averaged 16.1 ppg, while grabbing almost 10 rebounds a game. Virtually a double-double for the big man from Detroit for the entire season. When you combine that production with AJ's 61 blocked shots and 30 steals (2nd highest on the team), you can see that Doc is Missouri's most complete player. Johnson was Missouri's most consistent player for the majority of the season with the exception of a lull at the end of the regular season. AJ didn't stay down, however, as he took over several games for the Tigers in the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. As OU coach Kelvin Sampson said about Paulding and Johnson after Missouri erased a 24 point deficit to almost beat the Sooners at the buzzer in the conference title game, "Ricky Paulding is THE MAN...Arthur Johnson is THE MAN." We couldn't have said it any better ourselves, coach!
Ricky Clemons - If Paulding and AJ were Missouri's pillars of consistency, Ricky Clemons was the definition of inconsistency for Missouri. Clemons averaged 14.2 ppg, led the team in steals, and was, at time, a terrific outside scoring threat. The flip side was Clemons' horrific turnover total (107...nobody else had more than 79), the mid-season assault arrest which caused him to miss a game, and his end of season shooting slump (1-10 from the arc vs. Marquette for instance). Clemons was indeed a study in extremes. He consistently passed up solid passes to attempt the spectacular thread passes. However, after breaking a bone in his left hand, he had it wrapped and played the rest of the season with it without making any excuses. Could Missouri fans question Clemons' judgement and his decision making? Yes...quite clearly. However, Ricky Clemons showed himself to be a warrior for the Tigers. He also showed a great outside shooting touch in stretches this season when he was playing under control. Clemons has a court date to settle his off the court troubles, so the jury is literally out on whether this junior point guard will be back for his senior season at Missouri.
Travon Bryant - As maddeningly inconsistent as Ricky Clemons was, he might not get the team award for inconsistency in 2003. Supermizzou's vote for that dubious distinction would go to Travon Bryant. Bryant had an excellent run during last year's NCAA tournament which culminationed in an appearance in the Elite Eight. Much was expected from TB going into this season and Travon disappointed. Bryant fell in love with his feathery outside shot instead of helping out AJ inside on the boards. Bryant spent the first 3/4 of the season playing a feathery soft brand of ball that eventually got him benched in favor of true freshman Kevin Young. The former McDonald's All American apparently got the message riding the bench because he started to play better in stretches as Missouri's sixth man. Inexplicably, by the last week of the regular season, Travon had suddenly become the aggressive inside scoring and defensive presence Missouri fans had seen the year before in the Tournament. He kept it up until the final game of the Tournament when he reverted back to the old TB scoring no points, not moving his feet on defense and fouling out on five feathery soft fouls. Bryant finished the year scoring 8.9 ppg and grabbing 5.8 rebounds. So, what should Missouri fans expect from Bryant in 2004? Supermizzou would be content with similar effort as he showed in the Kansas game in Columbia for starters. Bryant needs to find ways to self-start his own intensity or he will disappear on Missouri's bench with the likely addition of star freshman power forward Linas Kleiza, and the continued improvement of Young. It's all up to Tra.
Jimmy McKinney - Missouri's true freshman guard flashed many moments of promise and a few moments of confusion and fatigue. McKinney started the season out getting his face crushed and playing with a clear mask for protection. JM showed tremendous resilience and courage playing through such a dangerous personal obstacle. McKinney started 26 of Missouri's 33 games this season and averaged 8.6 ppg and 4 rebounds per game. McKinney actually showed himself to be quite a ball hawk given the minutes he played (26 steals). Jimmy showed himself to be a reliable point guard alternative for Quin Snyder's team, although he sometimes looked very uncomfortable in the role. McKinney's best position is clearly as a shooting guard slashing to the basket. JM is the cornerstone for Missouri teams for years to come and will only improve with time due to his great work ethic and his athletic skills.
Kevin Young - Missouri's "other" true freshman was supposed to be a project. However, the project came out of Jeff Watkinson's physical conditioning program last summer with a new body and a new outlook on his playing career. KY worked his way into several early games showing a willingness to go inside, mix it up and challenge shots in the lane. Young didn't always understand what was happening on the court, or how to respond within the flow of the contest, but he always hustled and played hard. That willingness turned the youngster from bench player to starter by mid-season. Young's defining moment during the 2003 season took place at the very start of the Oklahoma game in Columbia when Kevin backed in his defender and took ball right at the hole with a thunderous slam dunk. The play ignited a pensive Hearnes crowd and the Tigers never looked back as they routed the Sooners. Young was Missouri's best surprise this season and with time and continued hard work, Young has a very nice future ahead of him at Missouri.
Josh Kroenke- Fighting through a variety of injuries that hampered him all season, Josh Kroenke did all he could to help Missouri in his limited minutes (547). Kroenke showed the ability to reliably hit outside shots when he chose to take them. Josh had the highest three-point shooting percentage on the team by far (.453), but only took 29 three-point attempts all season!? As several observers noted throughout the season, if Josh isn't in there to hit open threes, what is he in there to do because his injuries made him a defensive liability. Hopefully, Josh will get healthy over the season and become Missouri's later-day version of Johnny McIntyre...a solid, cold-blooded spot up three-point assassin. But that will only happen if Josh convinces himself that he has to shoot when he gets an open outside look!
Jeffrey Ferguson - Jeff Ferguson gets an incomplete grade for the 2003 season because he just didn't get enough minutes to figure into the picture. Even with his early season departure, Najeeb Echols played 123 minutes to Ferguson's 258 minutes. Ferguson is at a crossroads in his Missouri playing career. He will either determine to do whatever it takes to get stronger and develop some solid post moves, or he will not figure into Missouri's plans in 2004 either. Ferguson has not answered question about his future in recent interviews, so there may be some credence to the rumors that he may transfer. Either way, Ferguson has not made himself a factor for Missouri.
Jake Jackson, Ryan Kiernan, Rob Stewart- Missouri's loyal bench crew were real troopers and provided Quin Snyder's team with great practice depth. Their contributions as Missouri Tigers should not be overlooked or discounted.