(Photo Credit: Ryan Leopando- Arch City Sports)
There will be plenty of new faces on the court when fans attend Missouri’s first regular season game against UMKC on Friday at Mizzou Arena. From a new head coach to new key players, the Tigers hope to bounce back from a disappointing finish to last years season. For those who might not remember the Tigers watched their season come to an end in a 71-63 defeat at the hands of Southern Miss in the second round of the NIT tournament. Shortly there after head coach Frank Haith was on a plane to Tulsa.
Luckily the team hired a favorable replacement in Kim Anderson, who won the Division II national championship with the Central Missouri Mules earlier this year. Anderson is a graduate of the University of Missouri and served as an assistant under Mizzou legend Norm Stewart. Anderson will have the tough task of bringing the winning ways back to Mizzou Arena and will be doing so with almost an entirely new crop of players. Missouri only returns four players from a season ago.
Wes Clark, Keanau Post, Ryan Rosburg, and Johnathan Williams III all plan to contribute quite a bit this season and will be the leaders for the freshman-laden team. Clark likely will inherit the role as the teams starting point guard after splitting time with Jordan Clarkson a season ago. He averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 assists per game off the bench last year.
Williams III looks to make a bigger impact and improve on a less than stellar freshman campaign. In his first season the 6’9” forward out of Memphis, TN averaged a quality 6.5 rebounds per game, but lacked the big offensive numbers that could make him a dependable two-way player. With a more dynamic offense in the works Williams III should see his offensive numbers increase.
Post and Rosburg appear to be in line to split time at center as they did last season. The pair has looked strong thus far as Rosburg led his squad in the black and gold scrimmage with nine points and three rebounds. Post also had a solid outing in the scrimmage as he dropped in 14 points and five rebounds. Anderson has voiced his pleasure with the big men saying he would like the guards to feed the bigs the ball more. Redshirt freshman Hayden Barnard could also produce some solid minutes off the bench.
Another pair of players to watch in the Missouri frontcourt are freshman Jakeenan Gant and D’Angelo Allen. Gant, a commit from the Haith era has the potential to be an everyday player for the Tigers this season. The top player coming out of Georgia, Gant is listed as the 53rd best player from the 2014 class. He average 21 points 10.5 rebounds and four blocks in his senior season at Effingham County High School. The lanky Gant has the ability to shoot from the perimeter as well as explode and drive to the rim.
Allen is a 6’6” forward out of Dallas Kimball High School, who like Gant has a ton of raw talent. Allen is more of a defensive minded player so he probably won’t get very many minutes in his first year. Right now he appears to be in a similar situation as Williams III was a year ago where he will be brought in for defensive purposes when Anderson elects to use a bigger lineup. He definitely has the potential to be a standout player in the future; his time will come.
Now let’s take a look at the crowded backcourt. Clark appears to be the starter at point guard as of now, but that could always change.
First off, the veteran transfers. Deuce Bello is coming over from Baylor where he never amassed much playing time as a reserve player. He was heralded as a four star recruit coming out of high school and is a defensive minded player. While he doesn’t score a ton his quick hands and his aggressiveness on the boards could help in late game situations.
Keith Shamburger might be the most underrated pick up for the Tigers this year. A senior transferring from Hawaii, Shamburger is the complete package. He can be a bit inconsistent shooting the ball at times, but he put up solid numbers in the win over UMSL, registering 13 points and six assists. While they might not be the starters, this duo adds quality depth off the bench and confidence for late game situations.
Finally let’s move on to the trio of freshman guards, who could see the most minutes out of this freshman class.
Tramaine Isabell was a later addition for Anderson, but an excellent pick up. Isabell is dynamic and can play either of the guard positions. He’s coming off a phenomenal senior season at Garfield High School in Seattle where he led his team to the class 4A state title. Isabell averaged 23.6 points and 3.5 assists per game in his senior campaign.
Namon Wright is another player that stayed on board following the departure of Haith. Wright, who is listed as the nations 60th best player according to ESPN.com, has a bright future ahead at Missouri. Wright is another versatile defensive-minded player that can play either guard or small-forward positions. Wright’s ability to shoot the ball as well as dish the ball off sets him up as the potential point guard of the future.
Saving the best for last the player with the most upside is Montaque Gill-Caesar. Better known as Teki, Gill-Caesar reclassified into the class of 2014 so he could enter collegiate ball a year early. While he might not be around for the long haul Gill-Caesar’s talents have been compared to that of former Huntington Prep teammate and current NBA talent Andrew Wiggins. Gill-Caesar might not start in the lineup right away, but likely will be the number two guard throughout the season.
All in all there is a lot of young raw talent on this Missouri squad and it will be interesting to see how Anderson gets them to work together. The defensive minded approach seems to fit in with a lot of these players styles, which could be bad news for some of the weaker SEC teams. I don’t think it’ll be roses and daisies right off the bat for this team, but I do believe they will be better than what a lot of fans are going to give them credit for. Anderson has a tough job at hand, but if he can start churning out wins right off the bat, the sparse crowds will turn into a rocking Mizzou Arena once more.
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