COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson has been the target of much scrutiny over the past year. Whether deserved or not, Mizzou basketball fans are looking for change, and reasonably so.
As if coping with a two-win football team isn’t enough, Tigers fans have seen Mizzou basketball’s two worst years record-wise since the 1966-67 campaign. Following three generally successful seasons with Frank Haith at the helm, Missouri has found themselves in the doldrums of SEC basketball under Anderson.
Missouri’s Halloween and Hoops night on Oct. 26 saw Anderson climb out of a coffin in the center of Mizzou Arena. Anderson will try to draw his team out of SEC basketball’s figurative coffin, though it wasn’t necessarily the longtime coach’s fault the Tigers were there in the first place.
Missouri fans have become familiar with Frank Haith’s ethical issues since the current Tulsa coach left Columbia four days after Mizzou received notice of NCAA inquiry. The Tigers self-imposed sanctions that kept them out of the SEC tournament and removed their eligibility from the NCAA tournament last season.
The 2015-16 Tigers were integrated with both Haith and Anderson recruits. This season will be different. With the transferring of Haith’s leftover recruits completed, Anderson has a fresh start with his own recruits.
“I don’t want to criticize the past, but it has been a rejuvenation for me,” Anderson said during his press conference on Thursday afternoon. “It’s a pretty significant roster change.”
Entering his third year in Columbia, Anderson highlighted a “freshness” to this team.
“These guys practice early and stay late,” Anderson said of his 2016-17 squad. “They come in at night, they’re in the office watching film.”
The Mizzou sophomores lead that charge. Anderson’s first full recruiting class has played a key role in welcoming the new Tigers.
“Here, we’ve got people that take you under their wing,” freshman forward Willie Jackson said. “When you’ve got guys that want to teach you, that know what it takes and know how you will get better, take it.”
Jackson has taken said instruction from each veteran teammate, but especially sophomore forward Kevin Puryear, with whom he works out every day after practice. Jackson texts him each week saying “I appreciate you for being on me like that.”
“At some schools, you’ve got guys that are all about themselves, that won’t tell you things like that,” Jackson said. “So I take (the instruction) and run with it.”
Jackson’s high school teammate, Frankie Hughes, felt the same way.
“(The sophomores) are very inspirational,” Hughes said. “For them being here last year, going through their own experiences, they are passing those off to us.”
Jackson and Hughes both said Puryear was the sophomore that they were closest to.
Other notes from Anderson’s press conference…
• Referees: Missouri has been practicing with officials, both from the SEC and smaller conferences in their last several practices, Anderson said. The referees are in action for every drill.
“It’s really been a huge help having those guys in here,” Anderson said. “They’ve talked to our guys while our guys have been playing to explain why they’re calling what they call.”
• Cyclones: Missouri and Iowa State have agreed to play a home and home series for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The two teams will meet for the 2017 season opener on Nov. 10 at Mizzou Arena. Iowa State will host the Tigers on Nov. 9, 2018.
“We’re always looking to play good programs,” Anderson said. “Selfishly, I like playing big twelve schools, I think it’s good for our fans. I think our fans really relate to that.”
• Alabama A&M: Missouri basketball tips off its season Sunday night at 7 against Alabama A&M. The home opener marks the beginning of an 11-game stretch without a true road game.
Alabama A&M finished 11-18 (6-12 in the SWAC) in 2015-16. A&M’s two leading scorers aren’t returning to the team. The Bulldogs will play Missouri State on Friday, a game Anderson said he’ll be watching to get a better feel for his opponent.
You can follow Charlie Clarke on Twitter at @CWClarke18.
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