Keanau Post’s adjustment to NCAA Division I basketball was a rough one last season in his first year at Missouri.
Post — a 6-foot-11 forward from Victoria, British Columbia, by way of Southwestern Illinois Community College — averaged 1.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 30 games, including three starts.
He committed 13 turnovers with no assists and shot only six of 20 from the free-throw line, though he did shoot 19 of 30 from the field.
Still, Post was largely a non-factor, but the arrival of first-year Tigers coach Kim Anderson served as a welcome reset button.
“He had no confidence last year, but having Coach Anderson, who has a big-guy first mindset, has helped his confidence,” said MU associate head coach Tim Fuller, a holdover from Frank Haith’s staff. “He knows that the ball is coming inside and he has to be ready this year.”
Remarkably, and perhaps shockingly, Post has emerged as a leader by all accounts in his second season with Missouri.
“That was one of my concerns — leadership,” Anderson said. “Who is the person that’s going to step up and be a leader? It doesn’t have to be a verbal or a vocal leader, but who is going to be the guy? (Post) has definitely stepped up. He’s a big guy, and he’s made his presence known. I’m really pleased with his progress.”
Junior forward Ryan Rosburg admitted that he’s been surprised by Post’s emergence as a leader for the Tigers, but it’s definitely been a pleasant surprise — and perhaps a necessary one for a team that boasts only four returning players, two seniors and five true freshmen.
“Keanau’s realizing that this is his last go-round, and I think he wants to do it right,” Rosburg said. “It’s just being a senior and knowing that this is his last chance. He really is taking it upon himself to be a vocal leader and calling people out on different things, making sure everyone’s where they need to be.”
Oddly, the struggles Post endured last season, including some confidence-obliterating “tough love” from last year’s staff, might have positioned him to be something of a wise voice of reason for the freshmen, especially when they hit their own rocky patches.
“When any of the guys are going through something, I try to talk to them and help them out with it,” Post said. “If they have questions, they can ask me. Everybody goes through it in their own way, so I tell them my experiences. They may not be the same, but they may be similar and can help them out.”
Post lived in Jamaica until the family moved to Canada when he was a toddler. He briefly lived in Grenada then returned to Canada for high school.
He went to a prep school in Phoenix before landing at community college in Illinois and finally landing at MU.
“I’m a traveling man,” Post said with a grin. “I’ve been all over the place.”
Under Anderson, Missouri feels like home.
“I know I belong here and it’s my last year, so I’m going to play like it,” Post said. “I’m happy and I’m confident. I feel good. … I’ve come into myself. You can’t be a good leader if you’re not comfortable with yourself. I don’t really look at myself as a leader. I count on everybody to lead. Everybody has a piece to the puzzle and we’re counting on everybody to step up in some ways.”
As pleased as Post’s teammates and coaches are with his transcendence off the court, his play on the court will go at least as far in determining whether Anderson’s inaugural season on the bench is a successful one.
“He talks more and seems happier,” sophomore forward Johnathan Williams III said. “I like to see that side of Keanau, and he’s more aggressive now. That’s good too.”
Haith deployed a perimeter-based offense last season with guards Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross doing the bulk of the ball-handling and shooting. That will no longer be the case in Anderson’s offense, which runs through the post.
Fuller believes Post could make a massive leap in terms of production as a result.
“His ceiling is as high as he wants to be,” Fuller said. “If he goes to average six (points) and five (rebounds), it’s improvement, but he could potentially be a 12-and-six guy. It’s really about his mindset when he approaches the game.
“He’s become comfortable in his own skin and he understands that we need him to be big and play big. We need him to score, we need him to rebound, we need him to be vocal. Last year, we didn’t need him to do those things, but now that it’s a need he’s taking more ownership to do those things.”
Post probably will come off the bench to start the season. He’s fine with that.
He also understands that he probably didn’t respond well to the hard coaching he received last season, but now Post feels like he’s found his niche.
“It’s real refreshing, a new start,” Post said. “That’s how I see it, so I’m really excited about this coming season. It’s going to be good for me, I think. … I can’t put into words how excited I’ve been this past summer and into the preseason.”
He doesn’t have any goals — at least none he’s willing to share — as far as personal stats for the season.
Instead, Post’s goals are team-oriented, and one, in particular — an NCAA Tournament appearance — tops them all.
“It would mean the world to me,” Post said. “Obviously, I’ve never played in an NCAA Tournament game, so it’s something I’d like to do before my college career is over. And I think it would be great for the freshmen and the other guys who haven’t done it yet.”
Missouri men’s basketball preview
Johnathan Williams III
*with Huntington (W. Va.) Prep; **with Hawaii
▪ Last season: 23-12 overall, 9-9 SEC (tied for sixth), lost in NIT second round
▪ Player to watch: Montaque Gill-Caesar. After reclassifying to the class of 2014, Gill-Caesar, also known as “Teki,” followed his former Huntington (W. Va.) Prep coach, Rob Fulford, to Missouri. He’s probably the best wing on the Tigers’ roster and will be asked to shoulder a significant portion of the scoring load. Last season, Gill-Caesar averaged 16.1 points with 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals for Fulford’s Fighting Irish.
▪ Games to watch: Missouri’s schedule is loaded, including a date Nov. 24 with No. 2 Arizona in the opening round of the Maui Classic and a home-and-home with No. 1 Kentucky during SEC play (Jan. 13 in Lexington, Ky., and Jan. 29 at Mizzou Arena). The Tigers also play Dec. 5 at No. 19 Oklahoma during the Big 12/SEC Challenge, host Xavier and No. 7 Florida and tussle with Oklahoma State on Dec. 30 at the Sprint Center in addition to the annual Braggin’ Rights game Dec. 20 against Illinois.
▪ Outlook: Sophomore Wes Clark seems to have turned a corner after occasional struggles as a freshman last season and should capably man the point alongside Hawaii transfer Keith Shamburger. Sophomore forward Johnathan Williams III, who led MU in rebounds with 6.5 per game last season, also is poised for a breakout campaign, displaying more range and scoring touch in first-year coach Kim Anderson’s system. The Tigers will need increased production from the post duo of junior Ryan Rosburg and senior Keanau Post along with contributions from Baylor transfer Deuce Bello and a quartet of true freshmen — forward D’Angelo Allen and Jakeenan Gant and guards Tramaine Isabell and Namon Wright — to return to the NCAA Tournament.
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com