Russell Woods was angry when Kim Anderson didn’t show up as expected for John A. Logan College’s game Feb. 11, 2015 — a 76-69 loss against Vincennes University.
Woods, then a sophomore forward at the Illinois junior college, was eager to make an impression on Anderson, who was in his first season as Missouri’s head coach.
Tigers assistant coach Brad Loos had watched Woods (and teammate Martavian Payne) several times, but having Anderson make the trek was a bigger deal.
At least, it was supposed to be.
“I always wanted him to come to my games,” Woods said. “… When he wasn’t there, I was (peeved).”
After the game, an upset Woods marched into his coach’s office to vent and found out Anderson’s plane had to make an emergency landing after engine trouble.
“That was the night we got halfway over there ... and the right engine quit propelling,” Anderson said.
Woods was quick to forgive.
“There was an ESPN alert saying that he had to get off the plane so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll give him that,’” Woods said.
Two months later, Woods signed with the Tigers.
Two years later, he’s set to play his final game for Anderson at Mizzou Arena.
Asked if Woods, who’s almost tripled his scoring to 7.1 points and almost doubled his rebounding to 4.6 boards per game this season, was worth the harrowing plane ride, Anderson said: “Any kid like him, yeah. You guys don’t see everything, nor should you, but you don’t see the kid that came in and the kid that’s walking out. You see him, but you don’t see him like we see him. He had some problems a year ago. He’s done a really good job in school, he’s improved as a basketball player and I think he’s grown up as a person, too.”
Woods is the Tigers’ only scholarship senior set to be honored Tuesday before a 6 p.m. tipoff against Texas A&M.
Sophomore forward Kevin Puryear called Woods “a bright light” in MU’s locker room and “a joy to be around,” while freshman Reed Nikko praised the leadership he’s shown.
“I’ve learned a ton,” Nikko said. “He’s kind of taken me under his wing since I’ve been here. … It’s huge, especially for me and (fellow freshman) Mitch Smith. He’s taught us a lot about playing in the SEC, playing at a high level and has been extremely helpful for both of us.”
Woods said he didn’t have the same mentoring last season, making the transition from junior college harder, but he considered it his duty to help his younger teammates adjust as a senior.
Woods’ mom, Vivian Winters, who hasn’t seen him play since his freshman year of high school, is expected to attend Tuesday’s game.
Winters even missed the 2013 Illinois 4A boys basketball state championship — won by Woods’ Simeon Career Academy team that included future Duke star and No. 2 overall NBA Draft pick Jabari Parker — because of work, so it’s going to be an extra-special occasion.
“She watches all the time, but she’s never actually been here,” Woods said. “I’m very excited and I want to play good for her.”
The game, of course, also could be Anderson’s last as his future as Mizzou’s head coach remains uncertain.
“I haven’t (thought about it),” Anderson said. “I’ve tried to continue to keep my focus. We talked to our guys a few weeks ago, when we saw obviously we weren’t going to win the league or go to the NCAA Tournament or whatever goals you have set for yourself, about just trying to take one game at a time. Try to treat (each game) like it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals or the World Series or whatever it is and don’t look ahead and don’t look behind. I haven’t really given it much thought.”
The Tigers also will honor senior walk-on Trevor Glassman, who transferred to MU in 2014 after two seasons at Manhattan College.
Anderson called him “an unbelievable young man” and said he’s likely to start against A&M, because “I think he’s earned it.”
“He’s been a very positive influence for our team and a great guy in practice,” Anderson said. “We’ll miss him and his presence, his exuberance and his enthusiasm every day.”