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Thursday, August 21, 2014

A fresh beginning: Mizzou basketball will silence critics

June 4, 2014

Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Tigers basketball team this past season.

From player suspensions to poor production throughout the season and missing the NCAA Tournament, it was all capped off by the sudden postseason exit of head coach Frank Haith. Not to mention the team’s two leading scorers, Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson, electing to declare early for the NBA draft.

Now everybody’s thinking, what else could possibly go wrong?

My guess is that until the team proves their worth once more, attendance will be sparse. Not a lot of people have faith in the program after all that went on this past year, and I don’t blame them.

But with all of the mishaps and missteps that occurred throughout last year, it’s time we turn the page on Haith and last season and start fresh with coach Kim Anderson.

And I don’t think the fresh start will turn sour. The Tigers aren’t going to be as bad as everyone says.

Yes, the two leading scorers in Clarkson and Brown are gone. But weren’t they ball hogs?

They both wanted to be superstars and carry the team by scoring all the points. When two guys both try to do things that are mutually exclusive, it can sometimes end with everybody losing. That’s what happened to Mizzou. That, and Haith had no clue how to coach under pressure situations. (Have fun in Tulsa, Frank.)

So far since Anderson’s taken over, he’s done everything right.

From the time he stepped into the media lions den at his introduction, you got the feeling that he wanted to be at Missouri. He put to rest a momentary sense of panic among the Missouri faithful by retaining four-star commits Jakeenan Gant and Namon Wright. He also kept assistant coach Tim Fuller, a dominant asset in the recruiting department, on staff.

Looking at the roster right now, the Tigers have two scholarships left to fill with freshman guard Shane Rector choosing to transfer after getting minimal playing time.

It’s a guessing game as to what the starting roster will be come November, but Anderson has options.

Freshman Wes Clark will likely be the starting point guard at the beginning of the season, but Hawaii transfer Keith Shamburger and Baylor transfer Deuce Bello are both viable options. Shamburger, a senior, can continue to help Clark develop his game, and Bello, a great defender, could be a key contributor on both sides of the ball.

Mizzou has strength on the wings, too. The two-guard is Missouri’s best position at the moment, with Wright and sophomore transfer Cam Biedscheid coming over from Notre Dame. Gant has the small forward position on lock, in my opinion.

The post positions are where fans don’t give these guys the most credit, which is understandable. I’m certainly one of the people who criticized Johnathan Williams III and Ryan Rosburg for their lack of production on the offensive end. Williams averaged just 5.8 points per game, while Rosburg averaged an 4.8.

With that being said, off-season improvements can make all the difference between a player’s first and second year in college. Hopefully Williams can make the necessary adjustments and become a more reliable scorer at the power forward position.

Just like last year, Rosburg and junior Keanau Post will be the main contributors at center. Rosburg, while disappointing, is only improving and elevating his game on both sides of the ball. Post, who had flashes of greatness last season but never found a constant stride, should contribute solid minutes off the bench.

All of this is to say the Tigers are better than what a lot of people give them credit for.

If Anderson can get these guys to work together and adapt to his coaching style, I could see them being one of the better teams in the Southeastern Conference. That’s a pretty big ‘if,’ but the talent and depth are certainly there. Coaching was always the problem with Haith at the helm, so a fresh start with Anderson could go a long way.

As I’ve said before, when Anderson is yet to coach a game, you can only be so critical. But you can be as optimistic as you please.

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