Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — The disciplinary issues that plagued the Missouri men’s basketball team during Kim Anderson’s first season as head coach seemed to have subsided for most of his second go-round.
There had been the suspension of two players before an exhibition and a one-game suspension of Tramaine Isabell for behavior, but nothing like the barrage of punishments handed down in 2014-15.
Then, last Wednesday, sophomore Jakeenan Gant and junior Russell Woods were arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. Gant and Woods were suspended for Saturday’s game at Alabama, but Anderson is not sure whether they will return Wednesday at Vanderbilt.
“We’re still evaluating that situation,” he said Monday.
Last season, all but three Missouri scholarship players missed playing time at some point for disciplinary reasons. This year, Anderson thought the team had turned a corner.
“Yeah, I did, but I think a lot of programs have discipline problems,” he said. Gant and Woods’ “situation is disappointing, but they’re young kids, they make mistakes, and we just try to continue to help them and help them learn from those mistakes and help them grow as people.
“Yeah, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that something like that happened, but that happens everywhere in the United States. But we try to do a better job of teaching our guys and encouraging our guys to do the right thing, and there’s got to be some accountability and when there’s not there’s got to be consequences. Maybe it’ll continue to be that way.”
Anderson said he believes some of the disciplinary problems are rooted in a sense of entitlement held by high-level college players.
“I think it’s a problem with Division-I athletes. I do,” he said. “… You have a lot of advantages. Think about, now you have cost of attendance stipends coming every month. Some guys have federal Pell Grant money. You get money every month for housing. When I played, I got 15 dollars a month for laundry. That’s what I got. That’s a lot (less) than they have now.
“You’ve got time on your hands. You’re a college basketball player, so sometimes it is hard. After every game I always tell our guys, ‘Hey, make good decisions tonight.’ … That covers it. That covers it all. Make good decisions. It’s not hard. It’s not hard.”
And if poor decisions are made?
“I think the only way to sometimes teach is to take the ball away,” he said. “Or put guys on the bench or whatever. There just has to be some accountability.”
Still, Anderson disputes the idea he is some sort of overstrict taskmaster.
“Some people criticize me for being too difficult, and I’m going to tell you man, that ain’t true. OK? That’s not true,” he said. “And I’ve been fair with every guy. Every guy understands expectations, and there are not a whole lot of rules. Go to class. Conduct yourself as a gentleman. Be on time. It’s not rocket science.”
The current class of freshmen has yet to be suspended. Terrence Phillips, one of four scholarship freshmen, offered support for his teammates who have.
“Those are my brothers,” he said. “I’m always going to stand by their side, good or bad situation, whatever it is. I’m going to fight for them when we’re with them on when they’re with me on the court and when they’re not with me on the court. Things happen. It’s life.”
Senior Ryan Rosburg has also had a clean slate publicly since coming to Missouri.
“It’s hard sometimes,” he said of his teammates suspensions, “just because these are my teammates. I want them all out on the floor with me, and we’re with each other a lot, but when we’re away from each other, everyone has decisions to make. And I know, I mean, I’ve made mistakes, too, so I can’t judge anyone, but I just want all my teammates to play.”
While Gant and Woods were cited for having two “marijuana smoking devices” apiece, the initial investigation of their residence was in response to a house robbery involving one of the players’ roommates, who is not a Missouri athlete.
Rosburg said Gant and Woods’ two roommates were randomly assigned, and Anderson said he didn’t think his players knew the roommates well before they moved in.
Anderson didn’t want to go into specifics about how the program handles players’ housing situations, but a team spokesman said the team makes sure players have a place to live and that they’re paying rent. The team will help players find a place to live if they’re struggling to do so, but that’s rarely a problem because athletes tend to choose one of the many off-campus developments south of the university.
Rosburg, a Chesterfield native, said he lives with friends he grew up with, so he had no problem finding housing or choosing roommates. He said he never had to have his roommates approved by the program.
“I know in the past, coaches have recommended places to live,” Rosburg said. “I don’t know as far as (if) they told them where to live or set it up, but they have access to that, I know, if they need help.”
Anderson said housing with athletes is a persistent issue with college athletes.
“That’s something that we always try to work out better,” he said, “and obviously we didn’t know this or we would’ve encouraged (Gant and Woods) not to live with them.”