In an alternate universe, first-year Missouri coach Kim Anderson might be bringing his Oral Roberts team to Mizzou Arena.
Instead, Scott Sutton, who is in his 16th season at the tiny private school in Tulsa, brings the Golden Eagles in for a midweek showdown at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“When I left Missouri in 1999, I actually interviewed for the Oral Roberts job,” said Anderson, who played for the Tigers in the 1970s and later served as an assistant coach under Norm Stewart. “Scott got it. There’s another story behind it, but I’m not going to tell it, but Scott got the job, which he’s done a great job there.”
Anderson, of course, went to work for the Big 12 for a few years before taking the reins at Central Missouri, leading the Mules to the 2014 NCAA Division II national championship and accepting his dream job at MU last spring after Frank Haith elected to leave for Tulsa.
Through Anderson’s first two games at the helm, Missouri’s defense has been solid, allowing 55 points per game, with only 41 in Sunday’s win against Valparaiso.
The Tigers’ offense, however, remains a work in progress.
Missouri, 1-1, is shooting below 40 percent from the field and a meager 22.5 percent from three-point range.
The Tigers need a scorer to emerge, and the leading candidate would seem to be freshman wing Montaque Gill-Caesar — who does, in fact, lead MU in scoring at 15 points per game through two games.
“My teammates are encouraging me to shoot more, because they know I can hit shots,” Gill-Caesar said. “Even when I have an off day, they are telling me to shoot.”
So far, Gill-Caesar has run hot and cold. He was two of eight in the first half against UMKC, but made seven of 15 in the second half in finishing with a team-high 21 points.
Against Valparaiso, Gill-Caesar started one of six in the first half and shot three for seven in the second half.
Overall, Gill-Caesar is shooting 36.1 percent (13 of 36), and is only two of 12 from three-point range.
“As a scorer, you can’t worry about the past,” Gill-Caesar said. “You just have to worry about the next shot, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. That’s what I’ve been working on.”
He admitted that there’s been a learning curve in his adjustment to the college game, which is a more athletic brand of basketball than he played at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep.
Gill-Caesar, who reclassified from the class of 2015 and enrolled at MU in August, has been forced to learn and rely on more sets to get his shots.
As with the Tigers’ offense overall, it remains a work in progress.
“I’ve had to learn how to come off ball screens, how to come off down screens and how to play off the ball a little more,” Gill-Caesar said. “We’re all working on coming off screens better, waiting for screens, keeping your head up and looking at all options on the floor, like for the point guards, looking at slips and reading how the defense is playing.”