The Trib's Steve Walentik posted a lovely, lengthy Q&A with Missouri head basketball coach Kim Anderson this morning. You should definitely use one of your Trib clicks on it, but I wanted to highlight a few of the more interesting passages. It's obviously questionable (to put it politely) whether Anderson will be able to get his ship turned back around in 2016-17, but I do enjoy the candor he shows.
I want to play more aggressively. I don’t think we’ve played aggressively. When you do that, you run the risk of giving up easy baskets, but I think that’s the way I’ve always coached, that’s the way this program over the years has always played.
Q: Do you think you have players that fit that approach?
A: I think we do. I think we’ve got good quickness. We’ve got good athleticism. Again, the one negative is we probably don’t have the depth inside — experienced depth.
We saw in 2011-12 that a team with a clear, defined lack of depth on the interior can win a lot of games by accepting its mortality, so to speak. Frank Haith did a great job of saying "Let's make opponents pay for their lack of speed before they make us pay for our lack of size," and Mizzou won 30 games with that approach.
That's what Kim Anderson is going to have to do this year -- with far less proven talent and a lower ceiling, obviously -- and sometimes it pays to be so limited that you can't negotiate with yourself. "Well, maybe Cullen VanLeer can pull off being a power forward." No. He can't. You're going to be playing four guards a lot this year, so live that life. We'll see how well Anderson pulls that off.
Q: I know Reed Nikko will not be here this weekend because he’s still finishing school. When do you expect him? Also, I understand he’s coming off hip surgery. [...]
A: Yeah, it was actually both hips. Don’t ask me to describe it, but the common thought from the doctors and from Reed and his mom is it will certainly help his flexibility. I think he had some tightness in his hips, and it was something that we felt good about, he felt good about. He probably could have kept playing, but we thought this was a good time.
("Don't ask me to describe it" is why I enjoy Kim Anderson interviews.)
Having one of your few big guys coming off of double hip surgery is terrifying, but at least it doesn't sound serious.
Q: You’re still possibly looking to add one more player?
A: We could add one or two. I mean, surprisingly this time of year there’s some kids out there that are very intriguing right now. I would anticipate us bringing some more kids in to visit. ... [T]he big would be the No. 1 priority for me, for us. I think we just feel like we need more size. Can we live without it? Sure, but I think if we could get somebody that had some size, I think that would help us on the inside.
I ... am not sure there are any more intriguing 2016 guys left. And as soon as they emerge as an option, they end up committing to UNLV.
As long as this doesn't affect your preparation and summer practices, go for it. Go try to add some size. But you're going to be a small team in 2016-17, and the sooner you start living that life, the better.
Q: There still hasn’t been resolution to Missouri’s NCAA case.
A: I don’t know any more than you do.
I love the NCAA.
[Regarding recent SEC meetings in Destin:] There’s a rule that to recruit a junior college player, he has to be at the same junior college for three semesters, so that takes away that guy who goes to juco No. 1 as a freshman and juco No. 2 as a sophomore. We talked about that a little bit. We talked about, "Well, what if we’re allowed to do that and if the guy doesn’t keep all of his APR points, then we forfeit that right for three years" or something like that. I don’t know where it will go. The ADs were very receptive. The commissioner was very receptive.
The SEC has so many strange rules that seem to affect basketball recruiting but not football recruiting. And I'm not sure what the "same JUCO for three semesters" rule is supposed to positively affect. Then again, it probably doesn't actually affect many kids, so whatever.
Obviously, the two years have been difficult. There have been a lot of challenges. Nobody is more disappointed than me, but nobody is more committed and passionate than me to get it back to where our fans want it to be. It is a process. I’m sorry. I wish you could do it in one year. Mack has been unbelievably supportive. He was supportive through the process in March when we discussed the situation. He has not given me any like, "You’ve got to win this many games" or "You’ve got to do this." But we both are very much in agreement that we need to improve. [...]
You’re tired of covering this team. You want to cover a team that wins, right? It’s a lot more fun. And I know our fans are. That’s kind of the basis of our conversation, but he’s been unbelievably supportive. The bottom line is, you’ve got to win games.
Despite the lengthy list of newcomers, I do expect Missouri to improve again in 2016-17. There is power in culture and identity. The former will be further established by Kim Anderson having a full roster of guys he was able to fully get to know and communicate the culture to in recruiting. The latter could be established by simply being a small team that has no choice but to play a certain way.
But you know there's an "Unfortunately..." coming. Unfortunately, "improvement" could mean 12 wins with a Ken Pomeroy ranking in the 160s. There is always "lightning in a bottle" potential here, and plenty of struggling coaches experience third-year breakthroughs. But those are somewhat intangible reasons for optimism. The list of tangible reasons is pretty small.
By the way...
Michael Porter Jr. tells me he will not commit this summer. Wants to see the schools on his list play this season.— Alex Schiffer (@TheSchiffMan) June 5, 2016
I assume he also wants to see how the season starts for two particular teams on his top-five list. Both Washington's Lorenzo Romar and Anderson are sitting on pretty hot seats right now, and since UW is currently the clear favorite to land Porter's services, it very much makes sense for him to wait around just in case.
And hey, whatever allows Mizzou fans to string out their "So you're saying there's a chance..." optimism a little bit longer is great. The downside here: Mizzou has to keep recruiting Porter until it is officially eliminated from the list, and if he doesn't immediately sign in the early signing period, that's longer that Anderson has to dedicate resources to a player he still probably isn't going to land.