The Missouri Tigers basketball team is in the middle of a disastrous season, and it took another step back Tuesday.
According to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Missouri has dismissed junior guard Wes Clark for academic reasons. He's the team's most experienced guard and leading scorer among guards.”
Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou.com shared Missouri’s statement on the decision:
The junior also responded to the news on Twitter:
Never dismissed FYI— Wes Clark (@Im_back_15) February 16, 2016
ABC 17 News in Missouri had more:
Matter pointed out this is far from the first time Clark has run into trouble off the court since he arrived at Missouri. The guard was suspended for two games as a freshman following an arrest for marijuana possession and was suspended for a game as a sophomore for missing a practice.
Joe Walljasper of the Columbia Daily Tribune noted Clark’s dismissal could impact more than just the record for the basketball program: “This hurts Mizzou now and possibly later as its Academic Progress Rate is already a problem.”
Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily Tribune added more context:
The loss of Clark could have repercussions beyond this season because of its impact on the Tiger's Academic Progress Rate.
The basketball team's average from the 2011-12 through 2013-14 years was 929.7, just under the 930 mark that could subject it to penalties, according to figures released in May. That included a dismal single-year score of 851 for Coach Frank Haith’s final year of 2013-14.
The Tigers would need a score of at least 931 for 2014-15 to meet the 930 mark for their multiyear score. The 851 will stay on Missouri’s multiyear score through the 2016-17 measure. The school could choose to try and improve that number on appeal.
Walentik said “Clark is the third player to part ways with Missouri for disciplinary reasons since” coach Kim Anderson took over in April of 2014. Missouri dismissed Torren Jones in August of 2014 and Cameron Biedscheid in September of 2014, although the Biedscheid decision was “a move that was announced as a mutual separation,” per Walentik.
In terms of the actual basketball, Missouri is 9-16 overall and sits in last place in the SEC at 2-10. Clark started all 25 games this season and counts a team-best four 20-point games on his resume in 2015-16.
He is second on the team with 9.8 points a game (behind Kevin Puryear) and also averages three rebounds and three assists per night. Clark was also shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range before Tuesday’s suspension.
The Tigers finally had some momentum before this dismissal after a 75-64 victory over Tennessee in Saturday’s contest, which snapped a nine-game losing streak.
Clark struggled in that game with only four points, so perhaps Missouri can look to the victory without many offensive contributions from the dismissed guard as a silver lining or a blueprint for winning without him on the roster.
Matter noted Cullen VanLeer was expected to start Tuesday’s contest against South Carolina in place of Clark.
The Tigers will rely on Terrence Phillips and Tramaine Isabell as the primary ball-handlers without Clark in the lineup, although Namon Wright is also in the backcourt and fresh off a 13-point game against Tennessee.
With depth question marks at guard, the Tigers may be forced to turn to their interior play and forwards. That could actually be a successful strategy considering forward Puryear leads the team with 11.5 points a game, although he is a stretch forward who shoots from three-point range more than he bangs around on the blocks.
Elsewhere, 6’10” Ryan Rosburg dominated down low against the Volunteers with 21 points, five rebounds and two blocks and will likely be asked to shoulder more of the offensive load without Clark on the perimeter.
Barring a miraculous run in the SEC tournament, Missouri will not be playing in the NCAA tournament. The loss of Clark likely makes it an even easier matchup for those SEC teams that are battling for position in the Big Dance, although Tennessee certainly missed an opportunity to add a win to its resume Saturday.