There was more on the agenda than wins and losses when Missouri jetted to Hawaii for last week’s Maui Classic.
Good thing too, because a seventh-place finish wouldn’t have cut it if the Tigers, 3-3, didn’t gain something from the more than 8,000-mile journey.
“You want to go win three games, but, let’s be honest, we probably weren’t going to do that,” first-year Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “What we still continue to try to do is find ourselves as a team, so perhaps the last day was the most encouraging day.”
Anderson said the fact several young players stepped up against host Chaminade, an NCAA Division II power, was an undeniable sign of progress.
Freshman Namon Wright, who scored eight points (a career best at the time) in a loss to Purdue, led the Tigers past the Silverswords with 21 points.
He didn’t miss any of his seven field-goal attempts, including four three-pointers and finished with a career-high six rebounds.
“He’s a guy who has shown he can shoot the ball,” Anderson said. “I don’t know that we have primary scorers yet. I think we’re still developing that, but I certainly think he’s a guy that, if he’ll build on what he did … he can be a guy that will help us out.”
Wright still needs to master the offense, and Anderson would like to see him develop his offensive game beyond the jump shot, but there’s undeniable signs of progress.
Another freshman, Montaque Gill-Caesar, bounced back from a two-point performance, including a one-for-six shooting night, against Purdue to score 18 with six rebounds against Chaminade.
Finally, freshman point guard Tramaine Isabell went four of four from the field, finishing with nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes.
“I was really encouraged by what they did,” Anderson said.
Missouri played well against Arizona, Anderson said, but the Tigers were simply overmatched.
“When I looked at the score at the end of the game, I couldn’t believe that we lost by 19, because I thought that we actually played a very good team game,” Gill-Caesar said. “That just goes to show that we have a lot of work to do.”
Perhaps shell-shocked from getting handled by the Wildcats or simply bleary-eyed by the 9 a.m. tipoff, MU didn’t put forth enough effort against tall, physical Purdue.
It was another learning experience, which Missouri put to use against Chaminade and hopes to build off at 7 tonight against Southeast Missouri at Mizzou Arena.
“We learned that we’re going to have to be the hustle team,” said senior point guard Keith Shamburger, a transfer from Hawaii.
“We’re going to have to play defense from the beginning and keep playing like that, play as hard as we can every game — no matter what, no matter who we play.”
That includes the Redhawks, 3-3.
MU should have forward Johnathan Williams III available. He left the Chaminade game because of a sore knee.
Williams practiced during the weekend and Anderson said, “I would anticipate him playing (Tuesday). He still has some tightness, but there is nothing structurally wrong.”