There is immense pressure for Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson to get things right this offseason.
Nobody knows it better than Anderson, who played at MU during 1974-77 and was the Big Eight co-player of the year as a senior.
The Tigers are coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, a 9-23 campaign that saw records set for most losses in program history and the longest losing streak at 13 games.
Of course, nobody wants to see Missouri flourish more than Anderson — a Sedalia, Mo., native, who helped the Tigers win the program’s first Big Eight crown in 1976 and later served as an assistant under his mentor, Norm Stewart, during 1982-85 and 1991-99.
Already, Anderson’s offseason to-do list has filled up with pressing items.
Anderson also must keep the remaining roster intact after last season’s leading scorer and rebounder, forward Johnathan Williams III, chose to transfer.
Junior guard Deuce Bello also will not return next season.
But the No. 1 item on Anderson’s agenda, at least in terms of its impact on a turnaround in 2015-16, is recruiting.
Williams’ transfer altered Missouri’s recruiting targets some, but not substantially, as Anderson explained Wednesday during his first media session since the season’s end.
“To be candid, we were a little heavy at that spot (power forward) anyway …,” Anderson said. “We did have to change some things up. We had to go back and recruit some other guys, some bigger guys.”
Missouri does have depth at power forward, assuming Jakeenan Gant and D’Angelo Allen don’t seek greener pastures.
The Tigers also will add Blue Springs South’s Kevin Puryear, who won the DiRenna Award on Thursday as the top boys basketball player in the Kansas City area.
Losing Williams, who was the team’s best power forward, is a blow, but one Anderson thinks Missouri can absorb, so the basic needs for the team haven’t changed.
The Tigers also need players to soak up the minutes played by point guard Keith Shamburger — who served as the team’s primary ball-handler, especially after Wes Clark’s injury Feb. 10 — and 6-foot-11 post Keanau Post.
“I think we need another scoring wing maybe, we need a guard — kind of maybe a combo guard, point guard/two guard, kind of a combo-type guy — and obviously we need another big guy,” Anderson said. “That’s kind of the wish list, kind of the direction we’re going.”
Missouri already signed Cullen VanLeer, a scoring guard from Pacific, Mo., who is expected to help bolster an offense that averaged 60.5 points, which ranked 321st among 351 teams, and collectively shot 40.8 percent, which ranked 308th.
Oak Hill Academy point guard Terrence Phillips, the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings and the all-time assists leader at the vaunted basketball factory in Mouth of Wilson, Va., has committed to MU, but there are three other scholarship vacancies.
The NCAA’s spring signing period begins Wednesday.
“I’m excited about the guys we’ve signed and I’m excited about the recruits that we’re involved with, so I’m optimistic about the future,” Anderson said.
The harsh reality is that Missouri faces an uphill climb in many recruiting battles, especially in the one-and-done climate that has been dominated by Kentucky, Duke and Kansas as far as talent procurement.
The Tigers went hard after Huntington (W. Va.) Prep center Thomas Bryant, a four-star Rivals prospect who played for MU assistant Rob Fulford as a junior, but he committed to Indiana.
Missouri also had Phillips’ high school teammate and Rivals five-star recruit Antonio Blakeney in for a visit in October, but he chose LSU instead.
“What we have to do at Missouri, and every school has to do this, I think they have to know who they can recruit,” Anderson said. “Who fits the University of Missouri? You have to know who you can successfully recruit and then recruit those people. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“We’re trying to recruit guys that fit into our program, guys that hopefully want to be here and guys that we can develop into good players. … I’m not saying we don’t want the five-star guy. I’m just saying, we have to know who we can recruit.”
Anderson wants to add toughness and experience, two things that were missing from the 2014-15 squad, to the roster for next season.
“If you look at our roster … we only have one senior (Ryan Rosburg) and then you have Wes, who’s a junior, and then you have five sophomores at this point,” Anderson said.
Anderson didn’t rule out the possibility of a graduate-student transfer or a traditional transfer, who would have to sit out for a year, but the more likely scenario involves nabbing junior-college talent, which also would help balance MU’s scholarship classes.
The Tigers are set to host Russell Woods and Martavian Payne — who are teammates at John A. Logan College, a community college in Carterville, Ill. — for a visit Friday.
Woods and Payne helped lead the Volunteers to a 27-7 record, including a National Junior College Athletic Association District XVI title and a national tournament berth.
Woods prepped at famed Simeon High School in Chicago and played behind Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker with the Mac Irvin Fire on the AAU circuit in 2012. He averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds last season with John A. Logan.
Payne, who played at Imagine College Prep in St. Louis and originally signed with Southeast Missouri out of high school, averaged 15.7 points with 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season for John A. Logan.
Missouri also remains interested in Kobe Eubanks, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Elev|8 Sports Academy in Delray Beach, Fla., and K.J. Walton, a 6-3 shooting guard from Brownsburg, Ind.
Eubanks, a three-star Rivals prospect, also trimmed his list to five schools — including Oregon, Georgia, Texas and UCLA — in early February.
Walton, a four-star prospect who is ranked No. 102 in the nation by Rivals, has offers from Xavier, Minnesota and Illinois State.