As the Mizzou offseason begins, it's time to give the same reverential treatment to past Mizzou basketball players as we gave to football players with last year's Wall of Excellence idea (the second Wall class is coming soon, by the way). So say hello to The Rafters. Based on your voting, we will induct five players into the first Rafters class, one from each of the following tiers:
Today, we make our final vote, the one for representation from the Rock M Nation era. Below, you will be asked to rank just your top two selections from the selected tier. First place will be given three points, second place will be given one point. Whoever receives the most points is the winner from that tier.
Here are your Tier 1 Nominees.
DeMarre Carroll (2007-09)
A Vanderbilt transfer who came to Mizzou to play for his uncle Mike, Carroll's Tiger career got off to a shaky start. He was shot in the ankle outside a Como club and dealt with recurring ankle issues through most of the 2007-08 season. He still managed to average 12.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG during a disappointing 16-16 season, and with a clean bill of health in 2008-09, he was the face of Mizzou's resurgence. He averaged 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block for a team that surged from .500 to the Elite Eight. From the 29 & 11 he posted against USC, to the 25 & 9 he posted twice against Baylor, to the "AAAAHHHHHHHHH!" in the intro video, to his handing the ball to Kim English at the end of the Memphis game, he absolutely, positively owned the 2008-09 season and made his mark on Mizzou lore in a way few have been able to do.
Leo Lyons (2005-09)
From a turnover-prone, quirky, freshman bystander on one of Mizzou's worst teams in a long time, to the guy who posted two double-doubles in the 2009 NCAA Tournament (and had the key three-point play in the final minute against Marquette), Leo Lyons' career in black and gold was as unique as it was memorable. He seemingly matured on the spot during his senior season, and his postseason numbers actually outdid those of DeMarre Carroll. For his career, the former purveyor of Leo Lyons' Planet scored 1187 points, grabbed 566 rebounds, and improved from year-to-year in every regard. From eccentricities to clutch free throws, Lyons was memorable in every way a player can be.
J.T. Tiller (2006-10)
Mike Anderson's first four-year recruit at Missouri, Tiller was the quintessential Anderson player. He played outstanding defense (2009 Big 12 Defensive Co-Player of the Year), scored key points (with an injured wrist, he scored 23 points in the 2009 Sweet Sixteen against Memphis), and exchanged skin for floor burns in every square inch of Norm Stewart Court. Tiller lacked natural offensive talent, but the effort level he showed in every second on the court was inspirational for teammates and fans, and off-putting for opponents. You weren't comfortable when Jesus Tyrannosaurus was on the court with you, and his growth from energy guy and role player to starter and difference-maker on teams that won four NCAA Tournament games in two seasons was both unlikely and fun as hell to watch.
Zaire Taylor (2008-10)
How does a player who averaged 7.4 points per game in his Missouri career and only wore the black and gold for two years make the Rafters nominations list? By staking his claim as potentially the most clutch Mizzou player of all-time. In just over thirteen months, Taylor made four game-winning shots for Mizzou. His junior season, he followed an underwhelming non-conference performance by beating Texas with a driving layup on a Wednesday, then beating Kansas with a perfectly executed pump fake and pull-up jumper the next Monday. A year later, his killer 3-pointer buried Kansas State to start conference play, and his coast-to-coast drive against Iowa State in Ames clinched a second straight NCAA Tourney bid for the Tigers. A long-armed defender and one of the most calm, in-control guards Mizzou has had in a long time (he and Tiller earned the "Hustle and Flow" nickname for a reason), Taylor's journey from Staten Island, to Delaware computer labs, to Mizzou lore is one of the great stories in Mizzou history, and fans will be talking about his game-winners for a very long time.