They didn’t know it at the time, of course, but Missouri’s men’s basketball team got a sneak peek at the Tigers’ next coach on Nov. 1.
Central Missouri’s Kim Anderson brought a talented Mules squad, which would go on to win the NCAA Division II national championship, into Mizzou Arena for an exhibition. The Mules gave the Tigers quite a tussle before losing 92-79.
Anderson was announced Monday as Frank Haith’s successor and he met with the returning Tigers’ players later that afternoon.
State Fair Community College guard Kevin Punter, who had committed to Missouri the week before Haith bolted, announced on Twitter that he was reopening his recruitment. That gives Anderson at least three open scholarships to fill.
But several other current Tigers players publicly cheered the hire.
Ryan Rosburg, who will be a junior forward, left no doubt how he felt about the hire, positing on Twitter, “Beyond excited to have one of our very own back home. Truly knows what Missouri basketball is all about.”
Fellow forward Johnathan Williams III, who will be a sophomore, posted a Twitter message that read “All I can do is smile #blessed” along with a picture from the Tigers’ locker room.
Rosburg and Williams are Missouri’s only two returning starters off a team that finished 23-12 overall and 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008 before losing in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Of course, that group also lost its top three scorers — Jabari Brown (19.9) and Jordan Clarkson (17.5), who left early for the NBA, and Earnest Ross (14.0), who has exhausted his eligibility.
Williams is the leading returning scorer on the roster at 5.8 points per game, though he did lead Missouri in rebounding with 6.5 per game.
“I think there’s good balance,” Anderson said Monday night in an interview on the Mizzou Network. “I know the one thing we don’t have coming back is probably a lot of scoring, at least statistically from last year. But I think we have guys who played maybe in limited roles last year that can score.”
Rosburg only averaged 4.8 points and point guard Wes Clark, who will be a sophomore, averaged 4.1 points last season, but the former Baylor guard Deuce Bello and former Notre Dame swingman Cam Biedscheid also become eligible during the 2014-15 season.
“It all comes down to can Kim and his staff attract quality players to Columbia,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “I don’t think the other aspects of the job are going to intimidate Kim Anderson one single bit. Coaching is coaching. It’s not different against John Calipari or Billy Donovan than some great coaches in the league he’s been in.”
Punter is gone and it’s unclear if Missouri will be able to keep Jakeenan Gant, who was Mr. Georgia Basketball as a senior, or Namon Wright, a talented shooting guard from Los Angeles.
Both signed with the Tigers in the early signing period, but could opt of their national letter of intent, a move Anderson would be likely to grant if requested.
Moving forward, Fraschilla said Anderson will need a good staff in place to recruit well.
He will need to make a decision about whether to retain associate head coach Tim Fuller and director of basketball operations Bryan Tibaldi, neither of whom followed Haith to Tulsa.
“Obviously, I want to talk to the guys that are here and get a chance to visit with them,” Anderson told the Mizzou Network. “I’ve got a couple other guys that I have in mind. It’s something that I’ve given a great deal of thought to.”
It’s also possible Anderson will want to being a former Mules assistant, perhaps associate head coach Brad Loos, with him from Warrensburg. Another option could be Anthony Peeler, a former MU player when Anderson was an assistant. Peeler, who also played in the NBA, has been an assistant coach at Division II Virginia Union.
“The absolute key for Kim is going to be to put together the right three guys that are on the road and have all the contacts,” Fraschilla said. “Of course, unless you’re one of the seven or eight big names in the country, every coach needs a great staff to recruit.”