May means two things at Rock M Nation: Tremendous Stubble and votes. The former will come soon enough; it's time to begin the latter. We start with the third class of inductees into The Rafters, Rock M's celebration of Mizzou's finest basketball players from different eras.
Eras for the Class of 2012
Today, we move from the post-Stipanovich era to the 1993-94 season. Still some ferocious names yet to be inducted. Read the bios, do your own research ... and place your votes.
The national junior college player of the year at Moberly Community College, 6’7" forward Malcolm Thomas arrived at the University of Missouri in 1983, just after Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold departed the program. Asked to help carry the team in the long shadows of such legendary players, Thomas immediately became Mizzou’s go-to guy, averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Thomas was even better as a senior, earning first-team All-Big Eight honors while leading the Tigers with 17.4 points per contest.
A ferocious point guard from Detroit, Lee Coward wrote himself into Missouri lore as a freshman, twice beating Kansas on buzzer-beating jump shots, first in Columbia and again in the finals of the Big Eight Tournament. A solid scorer, distributor and defender, Coward contributed to four NCAA Tournament teams and two conference champions (1987 and 1990). Though he was a complementary scorer on teams with stars like Derrick Chievous, Byron Irvin and Doug Smith, Coward still managed to accumulate 1,273 career points, and his 431 career assists rank fourth in school history.
Perhaps the most dizzying all-around talent ever to play at Mizzou, Anthony Peeler could slash, pass, score and defend the perimeter as well as any Tiger in history. A 6’4" guard from Kansas City’s Paseo High, Peeler was the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year in 1989, as he helped the Tigers reach the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. In his sophomore season, Peeler showed his remarkable versatility, averaging 16.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.0 steals en route to being named first-team All-Big Eight. He also became just the eighth Tiger to score 40 points in a game as he drilled Iowa State for 42, including a perfect 20 for 20 from the free throw line. After he lost the early part of his junior season to academics, Peeler returned and averaged 19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Peeler was even more dominant as a senior, winning the Big Eight scoring title and Player of the Year honors, and leading a group of young role players to the NCAA Tournament. But the most vivid memory of that season came in a loss, when he scored an electrifying 43 points at Kansas. His 1,970 career points rank him third all-time, and he remains number one in assists (497) and steals (196).
Little fanfare accompanied Melvin Booker’s arrival in Columbia. Norm Stewart discovered the unassuming point guard from Moss Point, Mississippi, while recruiting a more heralded peer. Good thing he did, because Booker spent the next four years maximizing his ability as well as any player in the Stewart era. A starter as a freshman, Booker deferred to Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler on the court. But he began to come into his own as a sophomore, averaging 11.6 points and 3.9 assists. With Peeler’s departure after the 1991-92 season, Booker assumed leadership of the team. His 15.8 points per game led the club in his All-Big Eight junior season. But it was Booker’s remarkable senior season that sealed his place among Mizzou’s all-time greats. His averages of 18.1 points and 4.5 assists per game do not begin to tell the story. On his way to becoming the Big Eight Player of the Year and a second team All-American, Melvin Booker imposed his will on each game, hitting every clutch shot in a season that saw the Tigers go a perfect 14-0 in the Big Eight and advance to within one game of the Final Four. Though his career began in virtual anonymity, it ended with Booker ranking among the greats in Missouri Tiger history.
As physically intimidating as any Tiger ever, the scowling Jevon Crudup was six-feet-nine-inches of chiseled granite. A starter from the get-go, Crudup averaged 12.0 points and 7.1 rebounds as a freshman until a broken wrist ended his season after 15 games. The superior defender returned for an outstanding sophomore season in which he averaged 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds while leading the team in blocked shots and finishing second in steals to Anthony Peeler. He put up similar numbers as a junior, and as a senior he was the powerful yin to Melvin Booker’s fluid yang on the only Missouri team ever to finish a conference season undefeated. His presence made opponents think twice before entering the lane. Crudup’s play was more steady than spectacular, but the numbers reveal that he was one of the best all-around frontcourt players ever at Mizzou – he ranks twelfth in career points (1,498), seventh in rebounds (874), eighth in steals (154), and fifth in blocked shots (116).