KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tony Criswell’s fate hangs in the balance every game day. For unspecified off-the-court reasons, he’s been a game time decision for Missouri’s first three games, and according to interim head coach Tim Fuller, that won’t change anytime soon.
Criswell sat the first two games but got the nod in the third. Nine minutes into Missouri’s 92-80 win over Hawaii, he stepped onto the court for the first time.
The Sprint Center crowd roared, and Criswell made the most of his opportunity, falling one rebound short of a double-double as he scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
“It’s nice to have him back,” senior guard Earnest Ross said. “Definitely his defensive intensity he brings everytime he steps on the court. We know he’s going to play well, we know he’s going to play hard, we know he’s going to rebound, we know he’s going to go after loose balls, so little things like that contribute to our team. That’s a big part, and we need him and glad to have him back.”
The announcement of Criswell’s suspension came as a bit of a surprise. At the very end of the press conference in which Frank Haith introduced Fuller as interim head coach, Haith announced that Criswell would be suspended for the season opener.
Haith didn’t specify what the suspension was for, but Fulller mentioned academics while talking about Criswell after the Hawaii game.
“Tony’s been kind of on a game-by-game, conditional suspension, and he just had to continue to do what he was supposed to do in terms of academically and everything our basketball program needed him to do, and he executed that wonderfully this week.”
Fuller said that even though Criswell played Saturday, it doesn’t guarantee his status throughout the rest of the season.
“It’s still conditional, game-by-game,” Fuller said. “Coach Haith put some parameters out there for Tony before he left, and Tony knows if he meets the whole stipulations, then he’ll play, if he doesn’t then he won’t.”
When asked how long the conditional aspect would last, Fuller said it would last through the end of the semester, which wraps up in mid-December, when Criswell will be eligible to graduate.
Criswell scooped up rebounds and put them back in. Fuller indicated it didn’t surprise him, saying he urged Criswell, along with others, to get to the basket.
“Eleven points, nine rebounds, and that’s what we expect from Tony,” Fuller said. “He was another person I talked to. I said, ‘Hey, if you take jump shots, you’re not going to play. We need to drive the ball to the lane.’”