After what he described as a great start to preseason practices, Kim Anderson could see that Missouri’s progress on the court had begun to stagnate.
Anderson’s solution was a bit unorthodox.
“There’d been a lot of things going on,” Anderson said at SEC Media Day on Wednesday, “and I had a lot of stuff that was going on and so what we did was we actually got on a bus and drove to Moberly, Mo., which is 30 miles north of Columbia.”
Anderson didn’t want to take his players too far, but knew they could all use a bit of a getaway.
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“I didn’t tell anyone we were going away,” he said. “We checked into a Comfort Inn and we practiced all weekend at Moberly High School, and it was really good because it got us away and it was kind of like a little training camp.”
Cell phones were outlawed during meal times, and during their free time, the team gathered together to watch the Florida-Missouri football game.
“I think it was perfect to get away and have no distractions,” Tigers junior forward Ryan Rosburg said. “We practiced and then hung out as a team all the time. It was practice, team meal, practice, hang out at the hotel, and practice again. It was just a good time to bond. We’re all sitting there tired and just fighting through that whole weekend, and I think it was the perfect way to get the season started.”
Anderson is taking over a team that lost its top three players from last season and will have one of the youngest rosters in college basketball, with just two starters and four returning letter winners back after a 23-12 campaign.
Nine of the team’s 13 players are freshmen or sophomores.
The Tigers’ top returning scorer from last season is forward Johnathan Williams III, who averaged 5.8 points as a freshman, while Rosburg, their only other returning starter, averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds.
“Boy, every day is full of growing pains,” Anderson said. “One day you’re really, really encouraged and then the next day you’re really really frustrated, and it’s not because they’re not trying. It’s just that you’ve got five new guys — five freshmen, a senior, and then a couple other guys that didn’t really play a year ago — and a new coach.”
For Anderson’s team to have success this season, it’s going to need instant contributions from freshman JaKeenan Gant and Namon Wright.
Get the ball down low
Anderson said that he expects this year’s team to play a different style from last year’s squad, which looked to juniors Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson (both of whom split for the NBA) and senior Earnest Ross for the majority of its offensive production.
“Our team, I think, will be more balanced,” Anderson said. “I would be surprised if we weren’t. I think we have a team that, if they learn how to play together, then we have a chance to be pretty good.”
“It’s definitely different,” Rosburg said. “Going from last year, where we were setting screens and not getting a lot of shots, to this year where when guys aren’t passing us the ball, they’re getting yelled at. Coach Anderson being a big man just knows what to teach and how to put you in the right places.”
Set your DVRs
This season the Tigers have 10 nonconference games that are on national television, a record for the school, according to the Tigers’ athletic department.
The Tigers are slated to appear in nine games on ESPN/ESPN2, including both games against Kentucky, which is the preseason favorite in the SEC.