Kim Anderson’s first summer as Missouri’s basketball coach has come and gone.
By and large, it’s been successful.
In the last four months since he was hired as Frank Haith’s replacement, Anderson has reshaped the Tigers’ roster.
He retained top recruits Jakeenan Gant, a power forward who was named Mr. Georgia Basketball last season, and Namon Wright, a heady guard from Los Angeles, while adding three more impact freshmen — wings Montaque “Teki” Gill-Caesar and D’Angelo Allen, along with point guard Tramaine Isabell.
Anderson also found a veteran point guard in Hawaii transfer Keith Shamburger to supplement a roster that already included young talent like forward Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark.
Some expect a rebuilding season for Missouri, but the reality is this is simply a building year for Anderson, who laid a foundation built on fundamentals and defense during the summer.
“From day one to eight weeks later, I thought we got better,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a little bit more of an idea defensively, and that was the main thing I wanted to see during that period.”
The team — aside from Shamburger, who was finishing classes to graduate at Hawaii, and Gill-Caesar, who committed in early August — also built some much-needed chemistry, eating breakfast together every morning and bonding over biscuits and gravy.
“We learned a lot about our team,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we had a chance to get to know each other. I don’t think we accomplished a lot as far as putting in offense or anything like that, but we had a chance to get to know each other, and it gave our coaches a chance to evaluate and get a feel for what we have.”
Anderson is particularly excited about a bumper crop of freshmen.
“All of them stood out in different ways,” Anderson said. “I thought Jakeenan really got better. With him, just having the opportunity to come play against this level of competition every day was important. He improved.
“Namon improved. He shot the ball pretty well. We had to play him at the point for a while just because of personnel, but I think that helped him become a better ballplayer.”
Gill-Caesar, who played for new assistant coach Rob Fulford at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, reclassified from the 2016 recruiting class and might emerge as Missouri’s best wing next season.
“He’s a good basketball player, and the thing about Teki is that he’s a solid player,” Anderson said. “I think he can shoot the ball, he handles the ball, he passes the ball. He’s a basketball player as opposed to being a one-dimensional guy. He’s a multi-dimensional guy. He can rebound. He’s got decent size. I was thrilled to have him come, and I think he’ll have an impact on our team.”
Isabell, who arrived on campus in late July, proved to be even better than anticipated.
“When Tramaine got here — he’s been a point guard, and he is a point guard — but the thing that impressed me was he shot the ball really well,” Anderson said. “He’s a guy that, if you’re going to play multiple point guards, he can shoot the ball well.”
Meanwhile, Allen’s hustle and his desire to play defense caught Anderson’s eye.
“D’Angelo impressed with his activity, his energy,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to find a position. He’s kind of a 3/4.”
Anderson isn’t allowed to discuss players he hasn’t signed While he surely was disappointed when Columbia Hickman guard Jimmy Whitt chose Arkansas over Missouri on Tuesday, Anderson sees a bright future.
The signing of Gill-Caesar was a recruiting coup that could grab the attention of Huntington Prep teammate Thomas Bryant, one of the top-rated centers in the 2015 class, or perhaps Chaminade junior Jayson Tatum — a 6-foot-7, five-star 2016 guard from suburban St. Louis.
“Anytime you can sign a high-profile kid like that, it helps, because other players see that too,” Anderson said. “I’m not as much into the rankings as you guys are, because that’s your job, but being able to get a high-profile guy like that helps down the line.”