Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kim Anderson addressed the media Wednesday for the first time since his rocky debut season as Missouri basketball coach ended.
Since Missouri’s Southeastern Conference Tournament loss to South Carolina, the Tigers have lost associate head coach Tim Fuller, leading scorer Johnathan Williams III and junior Deuce Bello.
The offseason departures were not exactly a shock to Anderson.
“I’m smart enough to know that anytime you have a season like we have that it is tough,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s hard on guys.”
Anderson, who won a Division II national championship before replacing Frank Haith at Missouri, said he does not know whether any other players will transfer, including the Tigers’ class of five soon-to-be sophomores.
“I’m not thinking anybody’s going to leave,” Anderson said, “but I also know that they’re young guys and people always get in their ears, too. In my conversations, they’ve been very positive. Now whether or not that continues, we’ll see. Time will tell. But I do think if they would stay together, I think they could be really a special group of guys.”
Williams’ departure had been confirmed to multiple sources by his father last week. He led Missouri with 11.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game and started every contest in his two seasons in Columbia.
“I hope in some small way that I’ve helped him become a better player,” Anderson. “I do think he’s improved as a player. I want to wish him good luck. I wish him the best in his endeavors, and I know that he’ll be successful.”
Anderson said Williams, who will have to sit a year before playing for another Division I school, is restricted by Missouri from transferring to any school the Tigers could potentially play in the 2016-17 season.
“Certainly I was hopeful that Johnathan wouldn’t transfer, because not only (is he) a good basketball player, but he’s a great guy,” Anderson said. “To be candid, we were a little heavy at that spot anyway. I mean, we had three or four guys there, so we did have to change some things up. We had to kind of go back and recruit some other guys, some bigger guys.”
Bello’s departure was not known until yesterday when Missouri announced in a press release he would graduate and transfer to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere. Bello, who Anderson said should graduate this summer, had transferred from Baylor to Missouri and contributed 1.8 points per game his lone season with the Tigers.
Anderson also clarified exactly what injuries the Tigers dealt with last season.
Wes Clark, who dislocated his elbow at South Carolina, is expected to return sometime this season. Montaque Gill-Caesar had dealt with a back injury early in the season, and Anderson said Wednesday it hampered him the rest of the season. Senior Keanau Post, whose hand was wrapped after suffering an undisclosed injury, had surgery on a torn ligament a few weeks ago. Anderson expects his recovery to take three to six months. Anderson also revealed Wednesday junior Ryan Rosburg had been playing with a broken finger on his right hand the last eight to 10 games of the season.
“I don’t say that to make excuses,” Anderson said. “I just say that as a matter of fact that we did have some guys who played through injuries. I’m not sure it would’ve made a huge difference, but certainly I appreciate those guys playing when they were hurt.”
In regards to the offseason, Anderson’s three biggest tasks will be finding a replacement for Fuller, filling the three available scholarship spots and developing the current roster while avoiding further transfers.
Anderson outlined what he would like to see in a new assistant coach.
“I’m looking for a guy that is a good coach, a good guy at scouting, game preparation,” said Anderson, who did not provide a timetable for the hiring. “Obviously we need someone who’s an excellent recruiter and trying to get the right fit with the right area of the country we want to recruit. Someone who’s good at skill development. I think that’s going to be important with these young guys that we have, and then someone that’ll do a good job building relationships with the players.”
The roles among assistant coaches will likely shift some, Anderson said, though those changes will likely depend on who is hired to replace Fuller.
As for the current players, Anderson highlighted strength and conditioning as areas that must improve, as he did multiple times during the season. He also stressed the need to improve individual fundamentals and noted chemistry was a weak point for his first team at Missouri.
“Not sure (chemistry) was the best,” he said. “… I’m not knocking anybody. I’m just saying we didn’t have that true leadership guy that maybe we needed as a team. I’m hopeful with younger guys getting older, we’ll be able to develop that, and maybe we as a coaching staff can do a better job of helping develop better chemistry.”
And perhaps the biggest offseason focus? Recruiting.
“I think we need to continue to strengthen our visibility here in this part of the country,” Anderson said. “But also in order to be successful at this level, you have to recruit nationally. … I think we need another scorer, a scoring wing, maybe. We need a guard, kind of maybe a combo guard … and then we obviously need another big guy, so that’s kind of the wish list.”
Missouri will be bringing in two recruits who have already signed letters of intent: Kevin Puryear of Blue Springs South and Cullen VanLeer of Pacific. Anderson said he would be open to bringing in transfers, be they from junior colleges or Division I schools — or graduate transfers, a la Keith Shamburger from last season.
Notes: Anderson commented on his current and incoming athletic directors, Mike Alden and Mack Rhoades, respectively. Anderson thanked Alden for giving him the opportunity to coach at Missouri and said he believes Rhoades will give him the necessary time to rehabilitate the program. … Anderson on newly hired SEC coaches Ben Howland, Rick Barnes and Avery Johnson: “Great coaches. I mean, three guys that have had great experiences, have done great at their previous stops and certainly a great challenge for me. But (it’s) exciting for me to be able to coach against these guys.”