Back in early May of 2014, Mizzou got a commitment from Keith Shamburger. An unheralded recruit who had played out his basketball career at San Jose State and Hawaii, Shamburger wanted a chance to close out his career on a high note, with a chance to play in the NCAA tournament and playing at a power 5 school. He had been hearing from schools like Maryland, Auburn and Tennessee, but chose the Tigers because of Missouri's more recent success in getting to the tournament and because he was good friends with Jabari Brown who spoke highly of the school.
What he got was something else. Shamburger found himself on an overwhelmingly young team with underwhelming readiness to compete against many of the Power 5 opponents they'd face. Mizzou started slow in non-conference play, played well late, hit conference play and couldn't find many wins. And all Shamburger did was show up, night after night, and play hard, and often. Shamburger averages 34.5 minutes per game, in fact he only played less than 30 minutes in 3 games (all blowouts), and managed to get at least one assist in every game while getting more than 1 in 28 of 30 games. To deny the impact that he's had on this team is ignoring the Tigers MVP this season.
I'd vote for Shamburger as MVP because each and every game he's given the Tigers something that they needed. The most experienced player on the roster, he was steady with the ball all season, and provided big shots and big assists in just about every game. Johnathan Williams III deserves praise for the effort and work he put in, and his future is certainly bright, but this team needed Shamburger to do what he did, and he provided it. If anything he was probably the only Tigers to meet or exceed expectations this year.
If there was an exciting play this year, chances are that Shamburger was behind it. As he got used to his teammates, his assist total started to escalate, and as the schedule got tougher his turnover numbers went down. He threw such a pretty lob that he made Rosburg look good.
Senior Night: 21 pts, 6 rbds, 4 asts
So coming into Senior Night, I was traveling to the game and thinking about the season. Depending on your point of view, you see the future and it could be very bright, but #theDarkWinter has completely consumed the program this season and discouraged even the most ardent supporters. It was evident walking into the arena and seeing 6,600 fans in the stands. The team had won 8 games in 29 opportunities, and the guy I thought about was Keith Shamburger. Shams has had a great year, his last year, on a bad team. Mizzou had shown signs of life recently with a home win over Florida, ceasing the 13 game losing streak, and they were hosting an almost equally bad Auburn team. We convinced ourselves here that Missouri had a good chance to win. And you could see from the moment the game started that Shamburger was going to do everything in his power to make sure he left MIzzou Arena on a high note.
After a few minutes of scoreless basketball, Shamburger hit his first three of the night.
Sitting there watching, I knew he was going to have a good night at that point. Then he made another jumper. Then after JW3 and Montaque Gill-Caesar chipped in 5 points, Shamburger was fouled on a jump shot and he made it along with the free throw. After that he hit another 3 to give him 11 points in the first 7 minutes and 13 seconds. He had a heat-check 3 next and missed and only took one more shot in the half. But he finished the half with those 11 points, 5 rebounds and a duo of assists. Shamburger was able to buoy the Mizzou offense early, which is something this team has struggled with all year, finding points early.
After scoring 11 of the teams first 15 points, Shamburger only scored 3 of the next 33 points. But with Mizzou facing dire straights, he scored 7 of the last 15, and had assists on two other scores helping to account for 13 of the final 15 points. The only two points he didn't account for were a Namon Wright layup to tie the game that was set up by a Shamburger handoff. If you don't remember, there is a gif of that in jaegers Numbers post from yesterday. It was his night, and he was going to make sure it was capped off with a win.
This season is obviously nothing that Shamburger envisioned when he pledged to Missouri back in May. But he's found a home here. He and Wes Clark have become very close, and you could see Clark's passion for his friend from the sidelines. After the jumper fell, Coach Anderson called a timeout to set his defense and to calm his young team down. As Shamburger approached the bench he received fives and chest bumps, and then the two friends met in the middle of the huddle and Shams grabbed his friends head with his hands and pressed his forehead to the younger Clarks forehead and exhaled.
10 seconds from the win on Senior night, his mom in the stands, the two friends encouraged their teammates to fight for this win and as they came out of the huddle they played the toughest possession of defense they've played all season. They did it for their teammate, who through this season of strife deserved at least one more win.
We wish you were here all four years too, Shams. Thanks for the year you gave us though.