Mizzou clearly has a talented roster, but how many Tigers will play in the NBA?
For the second consecutive season, the Missouri basketball team finds itself among the nation's elite. Head coach Frank Haith and his No. 12 ranked Missouri Tigers have started the season 10-2, and as the calendar turns to 2013, much will be expected in the future for this group of players.
Not only does the new year hopefully hold a successful run though their first SEC Conference schedule, but Tigers fans should hope for a bevy of successful careers for many of these players down the road as well. Many of Haith's players have a future in professional basketball and that includes the NBA.
Based off their current abilities and projected potential, here is a ranking of Mizzou's top NBA prospects to watch as the Tigers begin play in 2013.
Mizzou small forward Earnest Ross may not only have a future in the NBA, but possibly in another professional sports league as well.
Missouri Tigers small forward Earnest Ross is just fifth on the team in scoring this season, averaging 10.2 points per game. While his numbers are not gaudy, his physique and athleticism certainly are NBA-ready.
Ross has shown an ability to knock down jumpers from the outside, which is a necessity to play in the NBA. He is shooting 34.1 percent from behind the arc this season and has shown an improved, more comfortable shooting stroke as of late.
But what Ross could bring to the table for a future NBA team is a big, powerful body that could be a solid defender and role player off the bench for an NBA team.
Ross should be given a chance to showcase his game amply next season with the pending departures of seniors like Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. As it stands now, Ross could be a mid-to-late second round pick.
If basketball does not work out for Ross, he may have other professional sports options. With his body, athleticism and hands, an NFL team may come calling with the intention of striking undiscovered gold by trying to re-create the next Jimmy Graham.
Ross making it in the NFL would be a long-shot, but anything can happen.
Mizzou center Alex Oriakhi has been a beast on the boards this season for the Tigers, a trait that translates well at the next level.
Mizzou senior center Alex Oriakhi came to Columbia with a high profile after helping UConn win a National Championship.
Oriakhi has lived up to the billing during his first 12 games in a Mizzou uniform, averaging 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
While his offensive game is limited, Oriakhi is a good defender who can guard the paint with the best of them in college basketball. And like the previously mentioned Ross, the 6'9" Oriakhi is a physical specimen that is already prepared to bang with the trees in the NBA.
One thing Oriakhi has going for him is that there is always room for athletic, hard-working and rugged big men to fill out NBA rosters and play key roles as reserves off the bench.
Oriakhi could easily be taken in the early second round of this spring's NBA draft by a team looking to add quality, defensive-minded size. But do not be surprised if Oriakhi were to fall to the middle of the second round.
Mizzou power forward Laurence Bowers has recovered nicely from a torn ACL, but will the injury hurt his NBA draft stock?
Senior small forward Laurence Bowers is clearly the most polished player on the Mizzou roster.
The 6' 9" Bowers can score from the inside with a barrage of nifty moves. He can also hit the jumper from 15 to 18 feet away from the basket and run the floor with the best of them.
Bowers is strong on the defensive end as well. He is third all-time in Missouri basketball history with 137 career blocked shots and counting.
Bowers certainly has the game and talent at both ends of the floor, but also has recovered from a torn ACL injury just a season ago, a mark on his resume that will never go away.
Because of the possible question mark surrounding his knee, look for Bowers to be a late first round pick at best and most likely, selected by a lucky NBA team in the second round of this spring's NBA draft.
Freshman Stefan Jankovic is playing limited minutes for the Tigers now, but could develop into a serious NBA prospect over time.
Forward Stefan Jankovic is only a freshman and is playing a limited role for head coach Frank Haith's Tigers this season. But that does not speak to the immense potential Jankovic possesses.
Jankovic is a 6'11" guard trapped in a forward's body. He has a fantastic stroke from the outside and shoots the ball in a way that is nearly impossible to block.
Despite preferring to play from the outside, Jankovic does not lack aggression. The Ontario, Canada native is not afraid to attack the basket off the dribble and get dirty on the glass either. Jankovic is not afraid to assert himself offensively and confidently steps into shots, looking to make plays on a consistent basis.
Having Jankovic ranked as Mizzou's second-best NBA prospect is clearly a bet on his enormous potential. He has already shown flashes of the type of game NBA teams salivate over and after some further development, could turn into a dominant force for Mizzou before moving on to play professional basketball.
Jankovic's upside clearly could make him a first round pick some day, and Mizzou fans would only be so lucky if he were to develop into a lottery pick.
Point guard Phil Pressey's ability to make play and dominate a game without scoring could make him a NBA lottery pick someday.
To nobody's surprise, junior point guard Phil Pressey is Mizzou's best NBA prospect.
Very few players come along and can dominate a basketball game the way Pressey can without scoring. Pressey may be the Most Valuable Player in all of college basketball thus far this season and his case to make that claim starts and ends with his 19-assist performance in a loss to UCLA last week.
Despite his small stature, standing a listed 6'0'' tall, Pressey should be able to overcome his size at the NBA level with his incredible quickness and basketball IQ. Pressey knows the game and has such a good feel for his surroundings on the court that he can match up well with most NBA point guards.
Not only is Pressey possibly the best playmaker in the country, but he is also a scrappy defender who can cause turnovers and has room to improve upon his shooting stroke.
Pressey should easily be a first round draft pick when he decides to leave Columbia and could very well see himself taken near the bottom part of the lottery.