Keanau Post came to Missouri with a reputation as an athletic, potentially game-changing big man.
He had been a star at Southwestern Illinois Community College, where he earned second-team All-America honors as a sophomore after averaging 12.3 points with 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
Post was supposed to step into the shoes of former Tigers center Alex Oriakhi and provide a physical presence in the paint.
Instead, for most of the last four months, Post was a wallflower, spending most games on the bench and proving ineffective in the limited minutes he did play.
“It has been a lot more difficult than I thought,” Post said of the transition to Division I basketball. “The biggest challenge has been mentally getting myself together and continuing to work through it. It’s like you hit a wall, and there’s times when you get really frustrated.”
Much of that frustration melted away Saturday against Mississippi State.
After scoring only 18 points in 154 minutes in his previous 23 appearances, Post lit up the Bulldogs for 14 points on six-for-six shooting in 22 minutes.
He thundered home a dunk. He swished a soft baby hook from the baseline. He tipped in a put-back at the halftime buzzer.
Post grabbed seven rebounds and even blocked a shot for the first time since Nov. 16 against Hawaii, when he swatted two.
“I always knew I could perform at this level,” Post said. “It was just a matter of doing it. That game shows I can do it. I broke through that wall, and I had a good sleep Saturday night.”
Somewhere between signing with Missouri and suiting up for the Tigers, Post lost his confidence.
Truthfully, it was shattered to the point there were whispers it might not come back, but Post, who had shown occasional flashes of dominance in practice but couldn’t translate that to a game, refused to cave.
“That’s when you have to keep working, keep reppin’ at it and trusting, having faith that it’s going to get better,” he said.
Even if it came against conference doormat Mississippi State, it makes Post’s breakout performance — and that’s what the Tigers hope Saturday’s game was — so much sweeter.
“He’s kept working, he’s kept a positive attitude and we’ve kept coaching him,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I could not be more proud of a young man having some positive things happen, because he stayed with it. … We all know Keanau has a skill set and can do some things probably none of our other post players can do.”
Finally, he showed that — to the world and, more important, to himself.