COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — For Kim Anderson and the Missouri Tigers, this season is all about building for the future.
Last season, the Tigers self-imposed a two-year postseason ban in light of recruiting violations that occurred under former coach Frank Haith.
Not surprisingly, attrition followed and Missouri lost three players during the season. Martavian Payne left for undisclosed academic reasons, Wes Clark, who was the team’s second-leading scorer at the time, was dismissed for academic violations and D’Angelo Allen announced his intention to transfer with just two games left.
The Tigers lost an additional four players during the offseason. Fan favorite Ryan Rosburg graduated in May and three others transferred: Jakeenan Gant, Tramaine Isabell and Namon Wright, who led the team in 3-pointers last season.
Those who remain seem to have fully bought in to Anderson’s system, including sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips.
“I’m very excited to get the season going,” Phillips said. “This is a new year. I tweeted before, this is new faces, new vibes, new energy. What happened last year, that happened last year, so this is a new day. A new start.”
This summer, Phillips was named chair of the Southeastern Conference’s Men’s Basketball Leadership Council, an honor his conference peers voted for.
“He’s been a leader by example,” Anderson said of Phillips. “He’s been a guy who’s been in the gym working. He’s been a guy who’s talked to the guys. I think he is a leader. I think we have several candidates for leadership. I think he’s kind of a natural because he was a leader a year ago even as a freshman.”
For the second consecutive season, the Tigers are picked to finish last in the SEC. A 14th place finish from last year still lingers in the minds of those players.
“We’re trying to redeem ourselves from last year,” sophomore Kevin Puryear said. “I’m glad to have a new group of freshmen in and just a new vibe; a new energy. I think we’re just ready to get the season rolling…we’re ready to speed up this process of practice and get better every day and start playing some games.”
Here are some things to watch for this season:
Missouri spent 10 days in Italy this August, visiting sites like Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. The Tigers played a total of four exhibition games, compiling a record of 3-1. Anderson said the experience abroad helped foster team chemistry and better defined player roles.
In 2015, the Missouri set a very predictable trend. The Tigers were a perfect 10-0 when leading at halftime, and a dismal 0-21 when trailing at halftime.
Missouri has not won a road game since Jan. 28, 2014, when the Tigers won at Arkansas 75-71. The Tigers are also just 1-7 in neutral site games in the last two seasons.
Forward Russell Woods is the only senior on the 15-man roster. The Chicago native made six starts and averaged almost three points and three rebounds in 13 minutes per game.
“Russ has made the most improvement, on and off the floor, of everybody,” Anderson said. “Now, having said that, we need him to play.”
Thanks to youth, injury and attrition, 10 different players started for Missouri over the course of last season. Four freshmen made a total of 72 starts and accounted for over 40 percent of the team’s scoring. As the season approaches, Anderson is taking his time approaching the issue of starters.
“I prefer not to worry about starters,” Anderson said. “I just more am worried about players. I think there’s a learning curve for a freshman, but I really see 10 or 11 guys that can start.”
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