Canisius College’s top basketball player, star guard Kassius Robertson, will transfer to the University of Missouri, he announced Wednesday evening.
Robertson is graduating from Canisius this month and as a result will not have to sit out a year before playing his final season of eligibility.
The move is a big blow to the Griffs, although it has been expected since Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon gave Robertson his blessing a month ago to pursue transfer opportunities.
The 6-foot-3 Robertson averaged 16.1 points a game as a junior for the Griffs, ranking eighth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in scoring. He led the MAAC in three-pointers made (98) and shot an impressive 41 percent behind the arc. Both of those figures ranked 33rd in the nation. He took the most three-point shots of any player in the MAAC (7.0 a game) and was a second-team all-league pick.
Robertson made official visits to both Missouri, of the Southeastern Conference, and Georgia Tech, of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He said many high-major schools contacted him.
“It was pretty crazy,” Robertson told The News. “I had a ton of schools interested. Because of the timing, I didn’t set up visits with a lot of them because I knew that five visits would probably cut into summer school, and summer school was important wherever I was going. Georgia Tech wasn’t the only ACC school I was talking to. There were a couple Big East schools. There were a lot of Pac 12 schools. But it came down to the ones where I could set up the visits the quickest, and I felt that was the best position for me.”
Missouri, under new coach Cuonzo Martin, is in dire need of outside shooting after going 8-24 last season and ranking 333rd in the nation in three-point percentage.
Robertson’s departure opens the way for 6-5 sophomore-to-be Isaiah Reese to take over the starting shooting guard position. Reese averaged 7.1 ppg, fifth best on the team, in a promising freshman campaign. The Griffs will count on him to develop his shot. He hit 26 percent on three-pointers.
"While we are disappointed to lose a student-athlete like Kassius, we are proud that he is leaving our program with his undergraduate degree from the college," said Witherspoon. "We wish him nothing but the best in his career moving forward."
The MAAC season ended on a sour note for both the Griffs and Robertson, with a quarterfinal loss to St. Peter’s. Four starters were benched, as Witherspoon grew increasingly frustrated with the offensive execution. Robertson sat out the longest, for 13 minutes of the second half. In the next game, the season-finale at Samford, Robertson played 34 minutes and scored 24 points. Robertson said the St. Peter’s situation was not the reason for his exit.
“No. I think how that game went was definitely unfortunate, and that situation I don’t think was ideal,” he said. “I think me and coach definitely have our opinions on that. But even if we win that game and I scored 100 points and played 40 minutes, I definitely would have explored my options.”
Canisius has either two or three scholarships available, depending on whether senior Martin Dixon-Green is granted another year of eligibility.
Robertson ends his Canisius career 19th in scoring with 1,236 points and third in three pointers with 213. Canisius was his only Division I offer coming out of high school in Toronto, and Robertson said he was grateful for his time at the college.
“I’m so glad that I came to Canisius,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Canisius. It definitely feels good to become the player I’ve become. Part of me wishes I could finish in the top five ranks in scoring at Canisius. I know a lot of alumni and fans really supported me these last four years. So I feel bad, but I hope they can understand my situation and I hope they can understand my goals and the opportunity I have.”
Missouri has had a good offseason. The Tigers added one of the top high school players in the nation in McDonald’s All-America Michael Porter Jr. Robertson sees the program is on the rise.
“I liked Missouri for a few reasons,” he said. “My decision was solely on the basketball opportunity. I didn’t make it based on facilities or campus. The opportunity at Missouri is going to be big time. We’re going to be in the spotlight with Michael Porter Jr. coming. Along with him, our team is going to be really talented next year, and we have a chance to do big things. The coaching staff, Coach Martin and the rest of the staff gave me the vibe that I could trust them and they’re real dudes. I didn’t second-guess what they were saying. I talked to a bunch of people who played for coach Martin and assistant coach Cornell Mann, and they gave me good feedback.”
The Griffs have two returning starters, third-team all-MAAC forward Jermaine Crumpton and all-freshman point guard Malik Johnson.