ST. LOUIS — It took new Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson a little while to hire the final assistant coach to complete his staff.
There were so many things going on, Anderson said, that he didn’t have time to focus on who he wanted for that final spot. There were appearances. There was recruiting. There was getting to know his players.
But when the Tigers’ new boss settled on Rob Fulford as his final assistant, adding him to associate head coach Tim Fuller and assistant Brad Loos to complete his staff, it was an unconventional and surprising move. It was also a really good hire, said one national recruiting analyst.
"Everybody says, ‘Well, you hired Rob Fulford to be a recruiter.’ No, I hired him to be a basketball coach," Anderson said Monday during the Southeastern Conference summer men’s basketball teleconference. "He’s 138-17 at Huntington Prep. That’s pretty good. Yeah, he’s been a recruiter. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about that, but I think he was more of a complete package than most people thought. I was impressed with him, our administration was impressed with him. So I thought he was a good fit. I think he’s a little bit different than me. I think he brings some other ideas to the plate. … I think we clicked together when we spent a lot of time together. I’m excited that he’s here. I think he brings something to our program that will help us down the line, both on the floor and in the recruiting world."
Lookin’ good! CLICK HERE to check out our gallery of cheerleaders from around the SEC.
Over the past eight seasons, Fulford established himself as a dynamite recruiter and coach at the prep school level, first for three seasons at Mountain State Academy, where he went 81-14, and then five years at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, which he turned into a powerhouse.
His team finished in the Top 25 nationally in each of his last four years there as he recruited and coached players who went on to have success at the Division I level, most notably Andrew Wiggins at Kansas and Gorgui Dieng at Louisville.
"I think it’s a good fit," said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels. "Tim Fuller is a tremendous recruiter. He’s already on board at Missouri. You throw a guy in like Rob, I think it’s an out-of-the-box very good hire. I think Tim and Rob work really well together from a recruiting standpoint. Rob is very tied in in Canada. He’s very well liked among the high school, prep and AAU ranks. The guy can recruit. So I think he’ll do a good job. I think it was a really good hire."
It was also a smart hire for Anderson, who won a Division II national championship last season at Central Missouri but hasn’t coached at the Division I level since he was Norm Stewart’s assistant for the 1998-99 season.
Anderson, who brought Loos with him from Central Missouri, needed to keep an established recruiter like Fuller around after taking the job. Fuller was a smart hire by Frank Haith and has helped bring talent to Columbia.
Now Anderson added another assistant who has proven he can recruit top talent. Even though Fulford has yet to do that at the D-1 level, he has established relationships with high school and summer basketball coaches. His ties to Canada, where Wiggins and others have emerged from, should also help bring talent to mid-Missouri.
"I think he did exactly what he needed to do," Daniels said of Anderson. "He hadn’t been a Division I coach in I think 12 years, 11 or 12 years. He needed to go out and get some guys that can get players. The guy won a national championship at his level. So he can coach. Now he gets guys that have recruited. Tim Fuller is a guy that has recruited and had a lot of success recruiting high-level guys and now you bring in a guy like Rob Fulford that I think can have similar success."
The Fuller and Fulford connections have paid off recently as Mizzou has had two top prospects, Thon Maker and Montaque Gill-Caesar, take unofficial visits to campus.
Maker is a 7-foot center who is ranked as one of the top three prospects nationally in the Class of 2016. Gill-Caesar is a 6-6 small forward from Canada who played for Fulford at Huntington and is rated by Scout.com as the 38th best prospect in the Class of 2015.
The roster Fulford left behind at Huntington is strong enough to compete at the Division I level.
"He was bringing back a handful of top 50 players: Miles Bridges, Thomas Bryant, Teki (Montaque) Gill-Caesar," Daniels said. "He coached those guys. That’s going to give (Mizzou) a leg up on them right away."
Bryant is a 6-10 forward/center rated by Scout.com as the 23rd best prospect in the Class of 2015. Bridges is a 6-5 forward rated by Scout as the 38th best prospect in 2016.
"He had a host of other players there that have been really, really good and to be honest with you their recruiting was only getting better,’ Daniels said. "He turned them into a prep power. He did a really good job building that program. He recruited those kids and he’s tied in and has connections. I think it’s a nice out-of-the-box hire that should pay off."