This morning’s press conference was intended to be a debriefing from Wednesday’s wild finish in Gainesville, as well as an inside look at Saturday’s matchup versus LSU, though it was less of a conversation about basketball and more a chance for a few of Missouri’s seniors to look back and reflect on their time here in Columbia.
“It’s been great...I’ve got brothers in here for life,” Mark Smith said. “Coach Martin showed me how to become a better man...I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”
Jeremiah Tilmon and Dru Smith both shared similar stories.
“I didn’t expect to change that much,” Tilmon explained. “I was letting the older guys speak up...now I’m at the point where I’m the older guy.” Tilmon, who has grown so much at his time here at Missouri, is potentially just one game away from wrapping up his collegiate career at Mizzou Arena. Tilly technically has the option to return to Missouri next year, though when he was initially asked what his plans were following the conclusion of this season, he said, “I haven’t thought about it...when the time comes, we’ll figure it out then.”
“We always see the game part, but you don’t see the behind the scenes,” Coach Martin explained. It goes without saying that Jeremiah Tilmon has been a warrior his entire life — from his upbringing in East St. Louis, to becoming a father, to maturing as an individual here at Missouri, and to recently losing his beloved grandmother — Tilmon has bared it all and still has had the guts to step out on the hardwood night in and night out, giving the Tigers some of his best minutes. When asked about how much his grandmother meant to him, Tilmon calmly responded saying, “She always wanted to see me do good. She was the world to me...I’m just letting her light shine through me.”
Tilmon said Senior night will be a good time, regardless of the outcome.
Dru Smith, who has arguably been Missouri’s best two-way player all season, says he’s not ready unlace his shoes after this season concludes. “I definitely want to try and keep playing basketball,” Dru mentioned. “I enjoyed all my time here...it made me grow up and get out of my comfort zone.”
Coach Martin briefly mentioned that Dru may need surgery to correct an injury in his hand following the end of this season, which only amplifies how well he’s been playing the last month. Martin believes that Dru is the SEC’s best defensive player, despite his injury. “He had a lot of the parts before he got here,” Martin explained. “I’m not taking credit for what he has. I feel like he can play in the NBA, no question.”
Some more good news — Mark Smith has come back to life. Smith said he’s been having a lot more fun out on the court the past few games, “I feel a lot more relaxed out there on the court,” he said.
Missouri’s seniors will eagerly wait until tomorrow night’s ceremony, and look to close out their regular season with a victory.