‘Shamburger Helper’ provides much-needed consistency

Shamburger leads the Tigers in minutes, assists and free throw percentage.
Missouri guard Keith Shamburger (14) in action Jan. 17, 2015, at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Tennessee beat Missouri, 59-51.

Among changing young faces and unpredictable play, one thing stays consistent on the Missouri men’s basketball team; 5-foot-11-inch senior guard Keith Shamburger has provided stability and poise on a team in dire need of both.

"He's a guy that knows how to play,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said after the Tigers’ victory over Lipscomb earlier in January. “He's got good experience and he has maturity.”

That maturity has been a staple for the Tigers, who currently sit in last place in the Southeastern Conference with a combined record of 7-10 and a conference record of 1-3.

While underclassmen have often struggled to stay composed down the stretch in big games, Shamburger has been the most dependable free throw shooter on the team, shooting .896 from the line — second-best in the SEC.

Shamburger’s teammates have failed to mirror his consistency. Anderson talked after the team’s 51-59 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers about how important it is for the Tigers to avoid making simple mistakes.

“The margin of error for this team is not very big,” Anderson said. “We have a full roster again, so maybe we can use some of the guys who haven’t been playing to help us out.”

While many underclassmen have provided isolated sparks throughout the season, Shamburger has been a steady fixture at guard, averaging more minutes than anyone else on the team: 34.4. The senior also leads the Tigers in assists with 55 on the year.

“I had someone call me the other day and say this is my last three months of college basketball,” Shamburger said. “So, that is how I have to look at it. I am trying to get as many wins as I can and go from there.”

The senior has taken that message to heart, playing his best in SEC play the past few weeks. In conference play, the guard is posting an astounding seven assists per turnover ratio, earning him the nickname “Shamburger Helper” on Twitter.

His assists have been plentiful, but much of his effort can’t be seen on paper or stat sheets. Shamburger’s effort was most obvious during a close loss to Xavier in December, when the senior flew across the court, diving for loose balls and knocking over Gatorade buckets in pursuit of the bouncing orange rubber.

And when that effort doesn’t result in one of those coveted wins he strives for in his final months of college basketball, the disappointment is obvious.

“It's easy to talk about liking to win,” Anderson said after that Xavier game. “But does it really bother you when you lose? I think it bothers (Shamburger)."

It bothered him so much that the guard tried to fight back tears as he discussed the loss in the postgame press conference.

Those coveted wins have been hard to come by for the senior this season, and the first four conference games haven’t exactly been promising.

The tears haven’t been seen since Xavier, but the disappointment is still obvious in the senior’s eyes. Nonetheless, he’s doing his best.

"I just have a different mindset period, now,” Shamburger said. “This is my last three months, so I just have to make a push and do as best as I can."

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