ST. LOUIS — Kim Anderson has been busy since being hired as Mizzou’s basketball coach in late April, working to complete his coaching staff and add to the roster that lost its top three scorers from last season’s 23-12 squad.
The early reviews on the reworking of that roster have been positive, according to Anderson.
"I’m really pleased with the guys and their effort so far and how hard they’ve worked," Anderson said during the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball summer teleconference. "We’ve worked a lot on defense and fundamentals and really it’s been kind of a process where they are trying to get to know me and I’m trying to get to know them. But I think we have a good group of guys. We’re pretty young, but so far they’ve done a really good job here in the initial summer workouts."
Gone are Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross, who combined for 51.4 points per game last season.
Back are a pair of returning starting forwards — sophomore Johnathan Williams III, who averaged 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds, and junior Ryan Rosburg, who averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds — and a host of either new and/or unproven players, including four freshmen.
The most promising of those freshmen are 6-foot-8 power forward Jakeenan Gant and 6-4 shooting guard Namon Wright, two players signed by Frank Haith but recommitted to the new coaching staff, which included holdover Tim Fuller.
Gant and Wright were joined by D’Angelo Allen, a 6-7 forward from Dallas who was Anderson’s first recruit with the Tigers.
Those three have been on campus for weeks working out with their new teammates and they’ve already impressed their new coach, especially recently as workouts have gone on.
"I liked them when they got here," Anderson said. "I’ve really been impressed with their improvement over the last two weeks, because early on I think it was a hard adjustment for them coming to this level. I don’t even think it was me; I just think coming to this level. But, boy, in the last two weeks all three of them have certainly stepped up and gotten better, which is very encouraging. So I’ve got a lot of positive thoughts about those guys as we head through these last three or four weeks of summer and then heading into the fall."
Anderson was asked Monday if the freshmen have surprised him.
That’s not the word the coach wanted to use. Instead, he chose validated.
"I think Jakeenan Gant’s a really good basketball player and he seems to be getting more comfortable here in the past couple of weeks shooting the ball better," Anderson said. "Namon Wright has shot the ball really well, which is something that we need. We don’t have a lot of established shooters at the guard spot. Then D’Angelo Allen has become, to me, an energy guy, a guy who will try hard and play good defense and slash to the basket and go get rebounds. I wouldn’t say maybe surprised, but validate would be a better word. And all three of them have really gotten better, especially I think in the last four or five practices."
Those three will be joined soon by recruit commit Tramaine Isabell, a point guard from Washington who had originally signed with Washington State.
How quickly those youngsters assimilate to the college game could determine the fate of the 2014-15 Tigers in Anderson’s debut season.
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They’ll be joined by three transfers in point guard Keith Shamburger, who pledged to Mizzou from Hawaii this spring after Anderson was hired, Deuce Bello from Baylor and Cameron Biedscheid from Notre Dame.
Bello, a 6-4 shooting guard, will be eligible at the start of the season. Shamburger is also expected to be eligible then, as long as he finishes his coursework at Hawaii. Biedscheid, a 6-7 wing who transferred at the semester break last season, could be eligible at the start of the season but would otherwise be available at the semester break.
Those three bring experience but, in the case of Bello and Biedscheid, are still relatively young players.
So, yes, the Tigers will be young this season.
But Anderson is pleased with what he has seen so far, and that’s good news for the future of Mizzou basketball.