When Kim Anderson took over as Head Coach at the University of Missouri, most of us had reservations about the hire, myself included. I wasn't quite the doom and gloom sayer of some around the darker corners of the internet because I trusted that he would at least be a good coach. We've seen results on the court when he was at Central Missouri. You don't win that many games over that many years at any level without being able to coach. You might be able to fumble your way through a few years here and there if you have the right collection of talent but not for that long. However moving up to the high-majors you have to be able to identify and recruit talent, and this is an area where my concerns were the highest(insert Bill's go-to joke about "13 Matt Rowans" here).
Why I was so in love with the idea of Gregg Marshall is because he has proven that he has the ability to identify and develop players. I worried that any coach hired at Mizzou would not be able to get the high-level players needed to complete year in and year out in the SEC and beyond. Somebody like Marshall doesn't have to have a 4 or a 5-star athlete to compete with the 5-star freshmen at Kentucky, as evidenced by one of the best games of the season in the NCAAs a few months ago. I think most of us in Mizzou land would have been happy with Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet wearing OUR black and gold this past year.
But those guys weren't wearing Mizzou uniforms. Marshall wasn't our coach, nor was he going to be despite Mike Aldens best efforts. I held out optimism following an incredibly rocky 2013-14 season that there was enough young talent to turn things around in a year, maybe two. And then our coach left. And then we hired Kim Anderson. And then... Kim Anderson went on a tour to redeem Mizzou basketball. He won the offseason like nobody couldn't have imagined. He's won just about everybody over (well, maybe not switzy) and generated excitement for Mizzou basketball that was lost following a rather listless season in which we were mostly bored with our team despite some truly exciting players.
Anderson was able to address our biggest concerns about him over the course of a few months. He kept Tim Fuller and we breathed a sigh of relief. He retained both Jakeenan Gant and Namon Wright and we cracked a smile. He signed a charismatic kid from Dallas with a wild highlight tape and we grinned for a moment. He hired Rob Fulford and suddenly things around the program were buzzing. He convinced a tough 3-star kid from Seattle to come on board and then he talked another 4-star wing into joining the team with his former coach, in Montaque Gill-Caesar, and now we're all downright giddy. WHEN DO THEY START THE BOUNCY SQUEEKY HOOPS ALREADY?! Oh, and btw he solidified the Point Guard position by getting 5th year transfer Keith Shamburger to come and play mentor to some young players. If all that wasn't enough he didn't hesitate in kicking a player off the team when the player didn't meet the expectations set by the ever ambiguous "team rules". The show of strength will likely open any eyes that weren't already opened. It was like watching Yoenis Cespedes take batting practice.
So yeah, I think Kim Anderson has won the offseason. The next step? Getting actual wins during the season. And he'll have to do that with a young, but deeply talented roster. There are 12 guys on the team (with scholarships) and all 12 are in good position to log some minutes. Here is the current roster:
|St. Louis/Notre Dame
|Johnathan Williams III
|Memphis, TN/Southwind HS
|Seattle, WA/Garfield HS
|St. Louis/Houston Baptist
|Los Angeles, CA/Pacific Hills
|Vaughan, Ontario/Huntington Prep
|Los Angeles, CA/Hawaii
|Detroit, MI/Romulus HS
|Springfield, GA/Effingham County
|Aurora, IL/Metea Valley HS
|St. Louis/Marquette HS
|Victoria, British Columbia/Southwestern IL CC
And here is is by position:
Keith Shamburger (Sr.)
Wes Clark (So.)
Tramaine Isabell (Fr.)
Deuce Bello (Jr.)
Cameron Biedscheid (So.)
Namon Wright (Fr.)
D'Angelo Allen (Fr.)
Montaque Gill-Caesar (Fr.)
Keanau Post (Sr.)
Ryan Rosburg (Jr.)
Johnathan Williams III (So.)
Jakeenan Gant (Fr.)
Now pick two or three of the guys (that aren't the walk-ons) on that roster and tell them they're not going to see the floor. In Part 1 of my piece on Mizzou's path to a championship I wrote:
Where things get interesting is in the next two scholarships open. A JUCO player would probably compete for minutes right away but any freshman signed likely has a very minimal impact, similar to where I am projecting (D'Angelo) Allen. The two most likely targets at this point are Tramaine Isabell, a 6'1 High School PG from Seattle and Fred Richardson, a 6'6 JUCO wing from Houston who, according to PowerMizzou was visiting this past weekend.
I felt confident in Mizzou getting Isabell at the time, and I really like that kid. He's not a greatly talented player but he's a winner, a good shooter and a tough kid. What I didn't count on was the next scholarship being taken by a top 50 4-star kid like Teki Gill-Caesar, another gritty and tough kid, but one with a ton of talent. The combination of these two spots being filled by these two players is a complicated one because it adds a guy who you expect to compete for minutes. With Isabell, you might be able to get away with letting him earn his time over a year or two. With MGC you get a player competing for minutes right away. He's going to compete for minutes on the wing with two other freshmen, one 4-star and a 3-star. He's also going to compete for minutes against two more 4-stars in Bello (Jr) and Biedscheid (So).
So what does having all this talent mean for minutes? It's going to be a crunch. The recent development of Torren Jones being kicked off the team loosens the constraints a bit for this upcoming season. I only had him playing about 10-12 minutes a game anyway, but that means you're probably counting on somebody like Keanau Post moreso than you expected or hoped. Post has the talent but was wildly inconsistent from day to day and sometimes minute to minute. Jones was much more consistent. Not always great but his effort was never in question. You know what you're going to get from the veteran Rosburg, you know that you can expect more from JW3 and you know that Gant is a freshman and will both excite and disappoint at times. The onus is going to be put on all four of those guys to make an impact. It's a little easier to spread the expectations out over more players, losing one guy just tightens the leash a bit.
If I've got a depth chart for this team RIGHT NOW it probably looks something like this:
|Johnathan Williams III
Subject to change of course. Sitting as it is, the three out looking in would probably be Isabell, Allen and Barnard (Barton has to sit out due to transfer rules even though he's a non-scholarship player). However, those guys can make inroads very easily because of the fluidity of the positions in the High-Low Offense that Kim Anderson prefers. Allen and Isabell are competing for minutes with Bello and Wright, a freshman and a Junior who has yet to prove himself at this level. You could also make a case for a redshirt of at least one of the younger players, maybe Allen since he looks to be the most in need of a good weight program. There is also the possibility of an injury. Either way the minutes breakdown is going to be a crunch, and it's going to be a tough outcome for at least a few of our players out of the 12 or 13 if you include the walk-on Barnard.
So you may not know any more from when you started reading this. But I hope it sets the tone for the forth-coming battle that we'll witness as the season draws near.