Ricardo Ratliffe is still trying to prove he can shoot despite posting best career FG% in Big 12 history.
By CONRAD BRUNNERFS Midwest
Funny thing about Ricardo Ratliffe.
The guy shot 69.3 percent from the field as a senior, finished his career at 63.5 percent -- best in Big 12 Conference and Missouri history -- and during one six-game stretch hit an astonishing 87.5 percent of his attempts.
And yet the knock against him, as it relates to his NBA Draft prospects, is a perceived inability to shoot.
He's working on that.
The 6-8, 240-pound mountain of muscle that carried the weight of Missouri's inside game at both ends of the floor on his broad shoulders continued his offseason sojourn by working out for the Indiana Pacers on Monday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Through the workout process, Ratliffe is trying to show NBA scouts there's more to his game than met the eye during his senior year at Missouri. Not that his performance was in any way lacking. He averaged 13.9 points and 7.5 rebounds and was at his best in the biggest games, racking up 27 points and eight rebounds against No. 3 Baylor, and following up with 22 points and 12 rebounds against No. 4 Kansas.
"I'm trying to confirm (his strengths) and I'm also trying to show I'm a better shooter than people think because I didn't shoot last year," he said. "Everybody feels like I didn't shoot because I can't but I really feel I didn't have to because we had so many shooters. That was their job.
"My job was to control the paint and I feel like I did fairly well. I've been training a lot, working on mid-range shooting and being able to step back. I feel I've gotten pretty good to the college three and I'm trying to expand my range to the NBA three."
Of the magnificent seven players that comprised the rotation in Coach Frank Haith's remarkable first season, only Ratliffe and backup Steven Moore were big men. The rest of the roster, such as it was, featured guards and wing players. Even so, the Tigers went 30-5, rose to a ranking as high as No. 2 in the nation, earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA West Regional and were picked by President Barack Obama to reach the Final Four.
That dream came crashing down with an 86-84 loss to Norfolk State in the first round.
It was one of the most improbable, inspiring and ultimately frustrating seasons imaginable but without Ratliffe taking care of things inside, it would not have been possible.
"It was crazy," he said. "We were probably the only people that believed in us until we really did start winning big games. When people start noticing, they really started noticing and we got ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation. That's when people started to realize we were one of the top teams in the country.
"In the tournament, we just overlooked our opponent and didn't bring it like we should have so we got beat. We deserved it because we didn't go in expecting to play Norfolk State, we went in thinking Final Four. Lesson learned and we all had to grow from it, get back in the gym and start working harder."
Though not approaching first-round status, Ratliffe could be working himself into the second round with a strong postseason. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the NABC All-Star Game and more recently led his team to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament title, averaging 12.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in the three games.
Ratliffe said the workout process has left him "restless at times."
"You're wondering if teams like you after the workouts and things like that," he said. "I'm just trying to make sure I stay patient and keep praying and just hope my name is called on June 28."
All Ratliffe wants is a shot. As his career history has shown, he's likely to make good.