In the last two years, there have been a lot of changes to the Missouri basketball program. Players have transferred in, transferred out, been ruled ineligible – and the biggest modification was a coaching change.
Mike Anderson left Mizzou for Arkansas after the 2011 season, and the Tigers replaced him with Miami coach Frank Haith. Little was known about Haith before his first season, but he proved his critics wrong with a strong regular season and a Big 12 tournament championship. Excitement for basketball is back in Columbia as Haith and the Tigers start their regular season on Saturday against SIU-Edwardsville.
When it comes to players, there has been a lot of movement and instances where players never made it to school because of grades. If players didn’t transfer or were eligible, then the current Mizzou roster would have looked a lot different.
The only player from the memorable recruiting class of 2008 is Laurence Bowers. The power forward sat out last season with an torn ACL and redshirted. Bowers was part a great class that Anderson brought in, which included guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English, and center Steve Moore.
Senior guard Michael Dixon is the one remaining player from the class of 2009. Three other players committed to Mizzou to play basketball and they would all be seniors if everything worked out. Forward Keith DeWitt was ruled ineligible, and forwards Tyler Stone and John Underwood transferred.
The class of 2010 was supposed to be Anderson’s best recruiting job with the Tigers. He brought in four-star point guard Phil Pressey, who is the star player of this season’s team. Anderson also added junior college players Ricardo Ratliffe and Matt Pressey. Both were key contributors last season and graduated in May. The rest of the class of 2010 didn’t pan out in Columbia. Guard Ricky Kreklow and forward Kadeem Green transferred. Kreklow left after Haith was hired and Green left the team in the early part of the 2011-2012 season. The blue chip player from that class was five-star prospect Tony Mitchell. Unfortunately, the NCAA ruled Mitchell ineligible for Mizzou and after a long series of appeals he never put on a Tigers uniform. Mitchell was able to attend North Texas and has ambitions of being a NBA lottery pick.
The class of 2011 consisted of two transfers who are expected to make an impact this season. Guards Keion Bell and Earnest Ross are due key minutes and make up a very strong backcourt. Haith nabbed another transfer while last season was in progress when guard Jabari Brown left Oregon for Missouri. Brown is available to play in late December due to NCAA rules.
If everyone who committed to Mizzou stayed all four years, here is what the current Tigers could’ve looked like:
Guards: Michael Dixon, Phil Pressey, Ricky Kreklow, Keion Bell, Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown
Forwards: Laurence Bowers, Keith DeWitt, Tyler Stone, John Underwood, Kadeem Green, Tony Mitchell
I didn’t include Haith’s class of 2012 recruits and UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi because there are too many factors to take into consideration. If all the players stayed, then Mizzou would possibly recruit different players to fit its needs. Looking at the roster that could’ve been, there is a great core of four players in Dixon, Pressey, Bowers and Mitchell. The Dallas high school connection of Pressey and Mitchell would have been a lethal combo. The rest of the roster would depend on how the forwards would have developed.
Having a player like Mitchell and more experienced depth would have been nice, but Tigers fans should be happy about Frank Haith and the current roster. It will be a team that plays unselfish offense and great half court defense, and if the team chemistry is there, the Tigers could compete for a SEC championship and be a legitimate force in March.