With the offseason having begun, it's time to once again give reverential treatment to past Mizzou basketball greats. Voting is underway for the second induction class of The Rafters. Based on your voting, we will induct five more players next week, one from each of the following tiers:
In the interest of representing different tiers of Mizzou history, we move on to a tier that was thinner when it comes to overall wins. But as Mizzou attempted to get its footing again at the end of Norm Stewart's tenure, there were plenty of unique, interesting, super-talented players putting on the black and gold. A few of the players in this list were coached by Quin Snyder, but they were brought to Columbia by Norm.
Voting will remain open for all tiers until the end of the week.
The man Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs incredulously called "a nice walk-on," Paul O’Liney walked out of the shadows in the middle of the 1993-94 season and straight into Missouri lore. O’Liney led Pensacola Community College to the national junior college championship in 1993 and then sat out the first semester of the 1993-94 season while he finished his associates degree. After watching Missouri get scorched by 52 points at Arkansas, O’Liney figured the Tigers could use some help, so he joined the team just after Christmas (the fact that his aunt lived in Columbia didn’t hurt). A broad-shouldered swingman, O’Liney immediately became Mizzou’s sixth man and gave the team instant offense off the bench. His play helped the Tigers make their epic undefeated run through the Big Eight, and then advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. In 1994-95, after the graduation of half of the championship roster and a season-ending injury to Kelly Thames, O’Liney, with an average of 19.7 points per game, carried Missouri to a surprising 20-win season and a victory over Indiana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He nearly carried the Tigers to a shocking upset of top-ranked UCLA in the second round, but his 23-point performance was wiped away by Tyus Edney’s infamous last-second shot.
Freshmen on the great 1993-94 team, Derek Grimm and Jason Sutherland introduced themselves to Missouri fans by entering the epic contest game against Illinois after four other Tigers had fouled out, and helping Mizzou take a 108-107 victory. A raw-boned 6’8" power forward, Grimm was a surprisingly accurate three-point shooter, making 41.8% of his tries for his career. Sutherland, a 6’1" guard, possessed a warrior’s mentality and an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation through four years that saw him ride the ragged edge between control and chaos. Ultimately, each topped 1,000 points in a Tiger uniform.
Kelly Thames, a 6’7" forward from Jennings High School, was a freshman sparkplug on the veteran Tiger team that swept through the Big Eight schedule undefeated in 1994. The conference Freshman of the Year, his last-second game winner against Oklahoma State preserved Mizzou’s unblemished record. He also scored 24 in the Tigers’ NCAA Sweet Sixteen win over Syracuse. High expectations for Thames’s sophomore season were dashed when a terrible knee injury during a workout cost him the entire year. Though he never regained all of the explosive athleticism he demonstrated as a freshman, he battled on, twice leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Thames shares Mizzou’s record for career starts with Steve Stipanovich at 124, and ranks seventh in scoring and tenth rebounding.
One of the steadiest, headiest players ever at Mizzou, Brian Grawer was the glue that held the Tigers together for four years. A savvy playmaker and dead-eye long-range shooter, he ran the point for Norm Stewart’s final two teams, and helped the coach win in his last visit to Allen Field House by scoring 18 points in 71-63 upset of the Jayhawks. Then, in Quin Snyder’s first two seasons, Grawer was the ultimate team player, gladly changing his role to accommodate talents like Keyon Dooling and Kareem Rush. Grawer’s impact on his younger teammates was noted by Snyder, who called him one of the best leaders Snyder had ever seen up close. That leadership was especially valuable during Grawer’s senior season. With Rush sidelined by injury and Clarence Gilbert working through discipline issues, Grawer held the team together and led the Tigers to a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
One of the most electrifying athletes ever to wear the black and gold, 6’3’ guard Keyon Dooling had an up-and-down freshman season until the Tigers traveled to Lawrence, Kansas. Dooling scored 15 points as Missouri upset the Jayhawks, who were nearly invincible at Allen Field House. His play helped Mizzou to a second place finish in the Big 12, and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament after a three-year absence. Then, in 1999-2000, Dooling emerged as Missouri’s top player. He scored 15.3 points per game and earned second team All-Big 12 honors as he carried the Tigers to their second straight NCAA appearance. Dooling then cut short his collegiate career to enter the NBA draft, and was taken with the 10th overall pick.
In Mizzou’s recent history, no player has had a greater flair for the dramatic than Clarence Gilbert, a 6’2" guard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, famed for his pit bull intensity and freewheeling shot selection. What’s your favorite Gilbert moment? The night in his sophomore year when he made five of seven three-point shots and scored 24 points to lead Mizzou to an upset of Illinois? Or a month later when he went seven of ten from beyond the arc on his way to 27 points in an 81-59 rout of seventh-ranked Kansas? How about the afternoon he took a head-spinning 36 shots in a four-overtime victory over Iowa State? Or the night he drilled a 17-footer at the buzzer to beat Georgia in the NCAA Tournament? There was the 2001 Guardians Classic tournament where Gilbert won MVP honors after leading Mizzou from eleven points down with 2:15 to play to beat Iowa in the championship game. And there was the day in Colorado when he sank twelve three-pointers against the Buffs. Add it all together and you get a sensational career that saw Gilbert contribute to four NCAA Tournament teams and score 1,685 points, eighth most in Missouri history.