A unique senior night has arrived for Missouri’s men’s basketball team, which plays host to Auburn at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the final game of the season at Mizzou Arena.
The two Tigers playing the final home game of their careers, guard Keith Shamburger and forward Keanau Post, have played a combined three seasons for MU.
Shamburger, who played his first two college seasons at San Jose State, is a graduate student transfer from Hawaii.
He has served as Missouri’s primary ball-handler throughout the season, a role he’s taken on even more since sophomore Wes Clark’s season-ending elbow injury Feb. 10.
Overall, Shamburger ranks eighth in the SEC averaging 3.9 assists and with a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. His 11 assists Feb. 4 at Alabama are tied for the most in a game by an SEC player this season.
During conference play, Shamburger’s 4.6 assists are good for fourth in the SEC and his 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio trails on Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis. Shamburger also ranks fifth in conference averaging 35.1 minutes per game
“Keith has been a guy, the best word to describe him I think has been steady or stable,” first-year Tigers coach Kim Anderson said. “He’s a guy that’s got a good assist-to-turnover ratio. He doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, so, for us, he’s been a tremendous addition. … I’ve enjoyed coaching him. He’s a competitor and he plays hard every night.”
Meanwhile, Post, a transfer from Southwestern Illinois College, has averaged 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds this season.
While his numbers remain modest, Post made remarkable progress from his junior season at Missouri, when he averaged 1.5 points and 1.7 rebounds.
“Keanau has improved tremendously,” Anderson said. “I wish I had him another year. I wish he had another year, because I think he’s just getting to where he’s got some confidence again and he’s had some good games for us.”
As for the game itself, the rematch with Auburn should provide a decent measuring stick for Missouri’s progress this season.
First-year coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers knocked off Anderson’s Tigers 85-79 on Jan. 10 in the second game of the conference slate.
Missouri trailed 41-40 at halftime, but opened the second half with a 9-0 run and led until the final 6 minutes.
“Hopefully, we’ll play better for 40 minutes,” Anderson said. “Down there, we played OK for a while, then they got us in the second half.”
Pearl’s program is in a rebuilding mode much like Missouri, but he lamented Monday during the weekly SEC teleconference that he won’t be able to lay the foundation of his program in earnest until next season.
Only four of 13 scholarship players return for 2015-16, so Pearl’s squad essentially will be starting over.
That’s not the case for Anderson’s squad, which includes two sophomores, Clark and forward Johnathan Williams III, and five freshmen — D’Angelo Allen, Jakeenan Gant, Montaque Gill-Caesar, Tramaine Isabell and Namon Wright.
“I would love to have a large, talented freshman class that you could begin to lay some foundation and groundwork with …” Pearl said. “That’s more of an ideal situation as far as growth, because, here’s the thing, sometimes you have to go through this pain as part of that foundation.”
Senior night typically marks a changing of the guard. That could be a harbinger of better days ahead for MU.
“It’s a process that you have to through, but I think the future of Missouri basketball looks very bright,” Pearl said.