Friday, June 30, 2006
A transformative figure in Mizzou hoops history. Under Norm Stewart’s guidance, John Brown had led a resurgence for Tiger basketball, and Willie Smith had briefly elevated the program to a more national significance. But more than anyone, Steve Stipanovich symbolized the rise of Missouri as a consistent power and a dominant presence in the Big Eight conference. A preternaturally-skilled 6’11” center from St. Louis, Stipo shared his four seasons at Mizzou with Jon Sundvold, the dead-eye shooter from Kansas City, and collectively, their achievement was stunning. They made Mizzou the only program ever to win four straight Big Eight championships, capturing the crown in each year of their careers. They led the Tigers to 100 victories, the best four-year run in school history. And Missouri achieved its first-ever number one national ranking in their stellar junior season. Individually, Stipanovich was a revolutionary player. A powerful post presence with a shooting touch to twenty feet, Stipo started all 31 games as a freshman, led the team in scoring, and was named Big Eight Newcomer of the Year. The next year, he set a school record for blocked shots. As a junior, he made his first All-Big Eight team. As a senior he made his second, in addition to being named Big Eight Player of the Year, earning various first and second team All-America honors, breaking his own blocked shots record, outplaying national player of the year Ralph Sampson head to head, and averaging 18.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. He also earned a spot on the Academic All-American team. At the end of his career, Steve Stipanovich owned the Missouri record book, ranking first all-time in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots (he now ranks fourth, third and second, respectively, in those categories). Truly, a Tiger for all time.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
A starter and double-figure scorer his first two seasons, 6’10” Detroit native Doug Smith erupted as a junior. In the process of leading the Tigers to a Big Eight championship and the top of the national polls, he was named Big Eight Player of the Year, won the league scoring race, earned second team All-America honors, and blistered Nebraska for 44 points (the second highest total ever by a Tiger). Despite the lure of the NBA – and an NCAA investigation-turned-probation for the Tigers – Smith returned for his senior season and won his second straight Big Eight Player of the Year award and another scoring title (averaging 23.6 points and 10.4 rebounds), in addition to yet more All-America recognition. In his last hurrah, he propelled the Tigers to the 1991 Big Eight Tournament title, capturing MVP honors with 92 points and 30 rebounds in three games, a sweet cap to a season marred by the NCAA's post-season ban. Doug Smith closed his career as the only Tiger ever to collect 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. A truly dominant interior player, Smith ranks second in points scored (2,184) and rebounds (1,053), third in blocked shots (129), and fourth in steals (178) in the first century of Missouri basketball.
Willie Smith enjoyed the most spectacular two-year career in Missouri history. A junior college transfer, Mr. Magic was All-Big Eight as a junior. Then, as a senior, Smith produced the finest individual season ever by a Tiger, and won conference player of the year and All-America honors. Recruited for his defense, in 1974-75 Smith became the first Tiger to score 600 points in a season. The next year, he became the first to score 700, while also establishing a new Missouri single-season record for assists. A left-handed shooting guard, he had range well beyond 20 feet in an age before the three-point shot. In his electrifying senior campaign, Smith led Mizzou to its first conference title in 36 years and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in the modern era. He saved his best performance for last, raining 43 points on Michigan in the Tigers’ heartbreaking loss in the Elite Eight, an effort Tiger fans still speak of reverently. His 25.3 point per game average in 1975-76 is still a Missouri record, and his career average of 23.9 is a full four points ahead of his nearest competitor. The most explosive player ever to wear the uniform.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
More than any other player, John Brown elevated Missouri basketball to prominence in the 1970’s. A rare blend of fire, finesse, strength and savvy, the six-foot-seven-inch, 220-pounder from Dixon, Missouri was Norm Stewart’s first marquee recruit and the prototype for so many others on this list – big, skilled, relentless and fearless. The big blond was a power forward with a soft touch, which he demonstrated as a sophomore when he averaged 14.9 points and 9.3 rebounds after missing the season’s first eight games with an ankle injury. Fully healthy as a junior, Brown dominated, leading the Tigers to their first 20-win season ever and their best winning percentage in 42 years, as he averaged 21.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and was named first team All-Big Eight. That summer, he earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team but did not play in the fateful Munich games because of an injured foot. Healthy again as a senior, Brown earned all-conference and All-America honors as he led the Tigers to another 20-win season in their first year in the Hearnes Center. His career averages of 19.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game rank third and fourth, respectively, in Missouri history. Quite simply, a dominant player.
A notoriously quirky 6’7” forward from New York City’s Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood, Derrick Chievous was nearly as famous for always wearing a Band-Aid as for being one of the great pure scorers in Mizzou history. Chievous began filling the hoop from the moment he set foot on campus, scoring a freshman-record 32 points against Arizona just one month into his career. As a sophomore, he led the Tigers in scoring with 18.8 points per game, and his season total of 640 points was then the second most in school history. Chievous elevated his game as a junior, earning first team All-Big Eight and second team All-America honors, leading the conference in scoring, guiding the team to a league title, and showing a remarkable ability to get to the free throw line (for his career, he made more free throws than any other Tiger attempted). His season total of 821 points remains a Missouri record, and his three-year total of 1,879 made him the Tigers’ all-time scoring leader with a full season left to play. All-Big Eight again as a senior, Chievous scored a career-high 42 points in a win over Virginia Tech. He closed his career with 2,580 points (still first by a huge margin), 979 rebounds (then second, now fourth), and a career 19.9 points per game average, second only to Willie Smith.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Perhaps the most dizzying all-around talent ever to play at Mizzou, Anthony Peeler could slash, pass, score and defend the perimeter as well as any Tiger in history. A 6’4” guard from Kansas City’s Paseo High, Peeler was the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year in 1989, as he helped the Tigers reach the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. In his sophomore season, Peeler showed his remarkable versatility, averaging 16.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.0 steals en route to being named first-team All-Big Eight. He also became just the eighth Tiger to score 40 points in a game as he drilled Iowa State for 42, including a perfect 20 for 20 from the free throw line. After he lost the early part of his junior season to academics, Peeler returned and averaged 19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Peeler was even more dominant as a senior, winning the Big Eight scoring title and Player of the Year honors, and leading a group of young role players to the NCAA Tournament. But the most vivid memory of that season came in a loss, when he scored an electrifying 43 points at Kansas. His 1,970 career points rank him third all-time, and he remains number one in assists (497) and steals (196).
Before his legendary 32-year run as Missouri’s head coach, Norm Stewart was the best all-around player in the first half-century of Tiger basketball, a truly revolutionary athlete who combined interior size with perimeter skills. A 6’5” guard, the Shelbyville, Missouri native was a potent scorer, ball-handler and rebounder. As a sophomore in 1953-54, Stewart was second in scoring on the team to Bob Reiter. By his junior year, he had earned a reputation as the Big Seven’s best all-around player, averaging 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Then, as a senior, he simply exploded. Named to the Helms Foundation All-America team, Stewart set MU records for total points in a season (506) and scoring average (24.1) while leading the conference in scoring and becoming just the second Tiger to top 1,000 points in a career. He also averaged a remarkable 10.7 rebounds from his position on the perimeter. Decades later, Stewart still ranks in the top ten in career scoring and rebounding average. In addition to his exploits on the court (his teams posted the best records at Mizzou in 25 years), Stewart was a pitcher on the 1954 national champion baseball team and later threw a no-hitter for the Tigers.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Jon Sundvold – a 6’2” guard from suburban Kansas City – became a starter midway through his freshman season of 1979-80 and started every game for the rest of his career. After Larry Drew’s graduation in 1980, Sundvold became Mizzou’s backcourt leader, racking up assists as well as points from his shooting guard position, where he had seemingly unlimited range. Forever intertwined in Mizzou fans’ memories with Steve Stipanovich, his four-year teammate, Sundvold made first team All-Big Eight his final two seasons and was a consensus second team All-American his senior year. In addition to averaging 17.1 points and 3.6 assists in his final campaign, Sundvold hit a 22-footer at the buzzer to beat Kansas State and clinch the Tigers’ fourth straight Big Eight title. Dubbed “Einstein in Sneakers” by former Southern Cal coach Stan Morrison for his genius-level play, Sundvold ranked second on Mizzou’s all-time points and assists lists at the time of his graduation. He still holds records for minutes played and free throw percentage.
A 6’6” forward blessed with terrific athleticism and a soft shooting touch, Ricky Frazier transferred to Mizzou after a freshman year at St. Louis University in which he won the Metro Conference’s Newcomer of the Year award. His impact on the Tigers was just as significant. As a sophomore, he started 30 of 31 games, averaged 13.8 points and 5.6 rebounds, led the team in blocked shots, shot 63.5% from the floor, and helped Missouri win the Big Eight title – a feat the Tigers would accomplish in all three of his seasons in Columbia. Then he improved. First team All-Big Eight as a junior, Frazier led the Tigers with 16.5 points per game and hit the game-winning shot against Kansas State that sealed Mizzou’s second straight league championship. Frazier closed his career in 1982 by winning the Big Eight Player of the Year award, earning third-team All-America honors, and helping Mizzou to its first-ever number one ranking the national polls. His career total of 1,448 points stood as a Missouri record for just one season, but it remained the highest total for any Tiger not to play four years until Kareem Rush surpassed it 20 years later. But the greatest honor may have come from his coach, Norm Stewart, who called Frazier “perhaps the best competitor we ever had.”
Sunday, June 25, 2006
George Williams, the big center ironically nicknamed “Shorty,” remains the only player in Missouri history to be named national player of the year, an award bestowed on him by the Helms Foundation for his play in the 1920-21 season. Williams, who also collected All-America honors for 1919-20, starred for conference champions in both of his years on the varsity as the Tigers posted a cumulative 34-2 record. Regarded as the finest center in the early years of the Missouri Valley, Williams led the conference in scoring in 1921 at 17.2 points per game. The 311 points he tallied that year stood as a Missouri single-season record for over 30 years. After leaving Mizzou, Williams led two different teams to AAU national championships, and earned places on three AAU All-Tournament teams. Truly one of the era’s great players.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Bill Stauffer, a 6’4” guard-turned-center from Maryville, Missouri, was the best rebounder in Missouri Tiger history. Despite typically facing larger opponents, Stauffer led Mizzou in rebounding in all three of his varsity seasons, and his per game averages in his junior and senior years (14.9 and 16.5, respectively) ranked first and second in Missouri’s first century of basketball. His career average of 13.6 rebounds is nearly two per game more than his closest competitor. In addition to rebounding, Stauffer developed into a prolific scorer, setting a Tiger season record as a senior with 368 points, and a career record with 807 points in 72 games, an average of 11.2 per contest. Stauffer twice made the All-Big Seven team, and earned All-America recognition for his play in the 1951-52 season. He then became the first Tiger to be drafted into the NBA when the Boston Celtics selected him in 1952. Stauffer, however, never played for the Celtics. Instead, a higher duty called, and he turned the Andrews Air Force base team into the world’s best military squad. His 43 was the first basketball number to be retired by Mizzou, and he remains one of only six Tigers to receive that honor.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Strong as a horse, smart as a whip, bigger than most, but small for his position, hard-working Al Eberhard helped power the Tigers to their first two 20-win seasons. He also combined with John Brown to give Mizzou its best frontcourt tandem in decades, maybe ever. As a sophomore, Eberhard established himself as a force, earning the first of his three MVP trophies at the Big Eight Holiday Tournament (he scored 33 to help defeat Kansas State in the final) and finishing second on the team in scoring and rebounding behind Brown. Big Al (he stood 6’5” but defended men a half-foot taller) was even better as a junior, averaging 17.0 points and 9.3 rebounds. As a senior, Eberhard stepped out of the departed Brown’s shadow. He was named first team All-Big Eight while averaging 19.7 points and 12.0 rebounds per contest. With 16.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game (third-best all-time), Eberhard is one of only four Tigers ever to average a career double-double.
Little fanfare accompanied Melvin Booker’s arrival in Columbia. Norm Stewart discovered the unassuming point guard from Moss Point, Mississippi, while recruiting a more heralded peer. Good thing he did, because Booker spent the next four years maximizing his ability as well as any player in the Stewart era. A starter as a freshman, Booker deferred to Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler on the court. But he began to come into his own as a sophomore, averaging 11.6 points and 3.9 assists. With Peeler’s departure after the 1991-92 season, Booker assumed leadership of the team. His 15.8 points per game led the club in his All-Big Eight junior season. But it was Booker’s remarkable senior season that sealed his place among Mizzou’s all-time greats. His averages of 18.1 points and 4.5 assists per game do not begin to tell the story. On his way to becoming the Big Eight Player of the Year and a second team All-American, Melvin Booker imposed his will on each game, hitting every clutch shot in a season that saw the Tigers go a perfect 14-0 in the Big Eight and advance to within one game of the Final Four. Though his career began in virtual anonymity, it ended with Booker ranking among the greats in Missouri Tiger history.
Despite being one of the smallest centers in the conference, Kim Anderson played a key role for Missouri teams in his sophomore and junior seasons when he averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game, and helped the Tigers to the 1976 Big Eight championship and a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. As a senior in 1976-77, however, he became Mizzou’s leader when he propelled the Tigers to a 21-8 record and was named Big Eight Player of the Year by UPI. That season, he scored a career-high 38 points in a win over Kansas, and he led the league in scoring with 22.1 points per game in conference play, while averaging 18.3 points and 7.9 rebounds overall. Anderson later became an assistant coach on Norm Stewart’s staff, and is currently the head coach at Central Missouri State.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Larry Drew was Missouri’s first great modern point guard, a leader, playmaker and scorer without peer at his position. After becoming the first freshman at Mizzou to be a regular starter in the modern era, Drew helped lead the Tigers to an improbable NCAA berth as a sophomore, earning admittance by winning the Big Eight Tournament despite a losing overall record. Steady throughout his career, Drew shone as a senior, earning all-league honors and rallying a group of underclassmen to a Big Eight title and a run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, including an upset of ninth-ranked Notre Dame, a game in which Drew dished a then-school-record 12 assists. At his career’s conclusion, Drew was number two on Mizzou’s all-time scoring list, and he held career records for assists, steals, field goals, games played, starts and consecutive starts.
One of the true giants of Missouri athletics. In addition to being Mizzou’s only three time basketball All-American, Herb Bunker is one of only two Tiger student-athletes ever to letter in four sports (basketball, football, baseball, track and field). Though not much of a scorer, the massive Bunker (an offensive and defensive lineman for the football team) was a stellar defender and a peerless rebounder who played for the 1921 and 1922 Missouri Valley champs, teams rated as the nation’s best by at least one historian. Known for his gentlemanly demeanor, the native of Nevada, Missouri, went on to earn a Ph. D. and lead the MU Physical Education Department for years. He is enshrined in the Helms Basketball Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Missouri Athletics Hall of Fame.
At 6’9” and at least 275 pounds, Arthur Johnson combined impressive size with surprising mobility and became one of the most productive players in Mizzou history. Blessed with soft hands and a deep arsenal of post moves, Johnson surprised on-lookers in his freshman year by becoming the most prolific shot blocker ever at Missouri. In fact, he holds the number one, two, three and six positions for single-season blocked shots in Tiger history. But Johnson could do far more than swat shots. In his first season, he made the Big 12 all-freshman team, and as a sophomore, Johnson was a key player in Missouri’s late-season surge. He recorded 18 points and 14 rebounds in a win over 12th-ranked Oklahoma State that helped the Tigers sneak into the NCAA Tournament field, and later he posted 14 points and 14 boards in MU’s Sweet Sixteen triumph over UCLA. As a junior, with Kareem Rush and Clarence Gilbert gone, Johnson became a full-fledged star, averaging 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and capping the season with a 28-point, 18-rebound effort against Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. In his final year, the team struggled, but Johnson continued to shine, especially late the year as the Tigers tried to resurrect their season. He tallied 29 points and 13 rebounds in a crucial win over sixth-ranked Oklahoma State, and he later scored 37 points in his final home game, a heartbreaking two-point loss to Kansas. Johnson holds Missouri’s all-time records for rebounds (1,083) and blocked shots (245), and he ranks fifth in points scored (1,759).
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Charlie Henke, a 6’7” center from Malta Bend, Missouri, surely would enjoy greater stature in the memories of Tiger fans had he played on better teams (Mizzou compiled a 29-45 record during his career, which spanned from 1958-59 to 1960-61). After a solid sophomore year, Henke dominated in his final two seasons. A two-time All-Big Eight first team choice, Henke led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding as a junior (19.3 points, 11.5 rebounds per game), and was second in the conference scoring race to Wayne Hightower of Kansas. He was even better as a senior, winning the league scoring title (Hightower finished second). In the process, Henke established new Missouri season records for points (591) and scoring average (24.6 ppg, now second all-time), and passed Bob Reiter to become the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer with 1,338 career points. (he currently ranks 18th) He is one of only two Tigers who rank in the top five in career scoring average (18.1 ppg) and career rebounding average (9.8 rpg).
Gary, Indiana’s John Lobsiger was the finest player in the twenty seasons that George Edwards led the Missouri program (1926-46). The rough equivalent of a modern point guard, the 6’3” Lobsiger made potent use of a one-handed set shot and guided Missouri’s offense with his superior ball handling and passing. All-Conference and All-America each of his final two years, Lobsiger captained the Tigers to shares of the Big Six crown in 1939 and 1940 – their last league titles for 36 years.
Younger brother of George “Pidge” Browning (number 52 on the list), Arthur “Bun” Browning played sparingly as a sophomore, but he dominated the next two seasons, earning All-America acclaim each year on teams that posted a cumulative 31-4 record. The Missouri Valley Conference’s leading scorer with a 15 points per game in 1923, Bun’s shooting ability was the stuff of legend. He was known to make shots from mid-court that “dropped through the net without getting on familiar terms with the ring.” With that kind of touch, Browning was especially valuable at a time when one player was allowed to shoot all his team’s free throws. Perhaps the finest forward in the Valley’s first 20 years.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
James Craig Ruby may have been the greatest winner in the history of Missouri Tigers basketball. The forward from Kansas City’s Westport High was an All-American in 1918 and 1919 and a first team All-Valley performer all three of his varsity seasons. A good defender and a favorite among fans as well as his coaches, Ruby was one of the few Tigers to play two years for legendary coach Walter Meanwell. When Meanwell returned to the University of Wisconsin in 1920, the recently graduated Ruby assumed Missouri’s head coaching duties for two years. In his five seasons at Missouri, Ruby’s teams went 81-7 (48-5 as a player, 33-2 as coach) and won four Missouri Valley Conference titles. Those four champions posted the four highest winning percentages in school history, going 17-1 in 1918, 1920 and 1921, and 16-1 in 1922. Ruby went on to coach at the University of Illinois for 14 seasons, and he served as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 1929.
Perhaps the most elegant offensive performer in Missouri’s history, Kareem Rush, a 6’6” swingman from Kansas City, possessed a picture-perfect left-handed jump shot and an effortless style that made him one of the Big 12’s most dangerous scorers. The league’s Freshman of the Year in 1999-2000, Rush went on a scoring binge in conference play, including a 31-point effort in a win at Texas Tech. The next season, Rush missed half the league slate with a thumb injury that required surgery, but he still earned a spot on the All-Big 12 team, and he garnered national recognition by scoring 29 points against Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament despite wearing a specially-made cast on his shooting hand. Then, as a junior, Rush again made the all-conference team and led the Tigers to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Rush left school after his junior season for the NBA, but his career scoring average of 18.9 points per game ranks fourth in Missouri history.
Selma, Alabama’s Curtis Berry, a 6’7” forward, emerged as a star as a sophomore in the 1978-79 season, when he averaged 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds for a team that went just 13-15 overall, but tied for second in the Big Eight with an 8-6 record. The next year, as the Tigers added all-time greats Ricky Frazier, Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold, Berry continued his tremendous play, averaging 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds and earning all-conference honors for the Big Eight champs before a knee injury ended his season in the league tournament. But he returned in top form as a senior and helped Missouri to its second straight conference title. Berry finished his career with 1,328 points and 811 rebounds (then sixth and second, respectively, on the all-time list; now nineteenth and eighth), and his 55.6% field goal percentage still ranks fourth in Mizzou’s history.
The effect of the second World War on the college game is illustrated by the career of Thornton Jenkins. In 1942-43, his first varsity season, Jenkins made the All-Big Six team and was the league’s second-leading scorer with 14 points per game in conference play. Then after two years of military service, he returned for three more years, making him the rare player to (1) play four seasons, as eligibility was extended for veterans; and (2) have a career that spanned six years. In his first season back (coach George Edwards’s last), Jenkins scored more points in conference play – 66 – than any other Tiger (including 18 in his debut against Kansas State) despite playing in just five games. Jenkins then captained Sparky Stalcup’s first two Tiger teams and helped Mizzou return to winning ways after the struggles of the final Edwards years. Jenkins led the Tigers in scoring each of those two seasons and made the All-Big Six team as a senior. He went on to have a brief but successful AAU playing career before becoming an assistant coach on Stalcup’s staff. Later, Jenkins became one of the nation’s top college basketball officials.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Playing four seasons over a span of six years, Jumpin’ Dan Pippin of Waynesville, Missouri, was the Tigers’ leading scorer and an All-Big Six pick as a freshman in 1943-44 – a season in which he played center at just 6’1” and led Missouri to a surprising NCAA Tournament berth despite a 9-8 record. Then, after two years of military service during World War II, he returned to score 17 points in Missouri’s 39-34 upset of Kansas (in Sparky Stalcup’s first trip to Lawrence, a game in which Phog Allen and the new Tiger coach nearly came to blows). The Missouri forward went on to make the all-conference team in 1947 and to lead the Tigers in scoring in 1949. A deadly fade-away jumper made Pippin a fantastic scorer, and spectacular leaping ability made him Missouri’s top rebounder. His 802 career points briefly stood as a Missouri record. After his collegiate career, Pippin was a key player on the United States Olympic team that won the gold in Helsinki in 1952. He also won several national AAU championships as a star for the famed Peoria Caterpillar squad.
A 6’5” swingman who transferred to Missouri from Arkansas, Byron Irvin joined the Tigers in 1987-88 as a junior, and took some time to find his way while playing alongside senior Derrick Chievous, the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer. Once he got his feet wet, Irvin came through in style, scoring 24 in a victory over 10th-ranked Iowa State, and hitting the game-winning free throws at seventh-rated UNLV after Chievous fouled out. Irvin averaged 12.9 points per game on the season, second on the team. As a senior, he was the dominant player on one of the most talented Tiger teams ever. On a squad that included Doug Smith, Anthony Peeler, Lee Coward, Nathan Buntin, Gary Leonard, Greg Church and Mike Sandbothe (among others), Irvin led Mizzou through a wild season that saw coach Norm Stewart leave the team at mid-year to battle cancer. Irvin’s finest performance came on February 25, 1989, sixteen days after Stewart collapsed on the way to a game at Oklahoma. In the rematch in Columbia, Irvin recorded 34 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists to propel the Tigers to a 97-84 triumph over the top-ranked Sooners, Missouri’s first-ever win over a number one ranked team. Irvin averaged 19.7 points per game on the year and earned a spot on the All-Big Eight team.
As physically intimidating as any Tiger ever, the scowling Jevon Crudup was six-feet-nine-inches of chiseled granite. A starter from the get-go, Crudup averaged 12.0 points and 7.1 rebounds as a freshman until a broken wrist ended his season after 15 games. The superior defender returned for an outstanding sophomore season in which he averaged 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds while leading the team in blocked shots and finishing second in steals to Anthony Peeler. He put up similar numbers as a junior, and as a senior he was the powerful yin to Melvin Booker’s fluid yang on the only Missouri team ever to finish a conference season undefeated. His presence made opponents think twice before entering the lane. Crudup’s play was more steady than spectacular, but the numbers reveal that he was one of the best all-around frontcourt players ever at Mizzou – he ranks twelfth in career points (1,498), seventh in rebounds (874), eighth in steals (154), and fifth in blocked shots (116).
Kelly Thames, a 6’7” forward from Jennings High School, was a freshman sparkplug on the veteran Tiger team that swept through the Big Eight schedule undefeated in 1994. The conference Freshman of the Year, his last-second game winner against Oklahoma State preserved Mizzou’s unblemished record. He also scored 24 in the Tigers’ NCAA Sweet Sixteen win over Syracuse. High expectations for Thames’s sophomore season were dashed when a terrible knee injury during a workout cost him the entire year. Though he never regained all of the explosive athleticism he demonstrated as a freshman, he battled on, twice leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Thames shares Mizzou’s record for career starts with Steve Stipanovich at 124, and ranks seventh in scoring and tenth rebounding.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
After a limited role as a freshman (frosh were eligible for one year during the Korean War), Bob Reiter dominated for three seasons, leading Missouri in scoring each year and in rebounding at least twice (official rebounding statistics do not exist for Reiter’s junior year). A 6’8” center from Brentwood, Mo., the lanky Reiter rode a hook shot to a school record 411 points in his junior season, and his 1,188 career points stood as a Tiger best for six years. His 27-rebound effort against Kansas State on January 15, 1955, remains a Missouri single-game record, and his career average of 11.7 rebounds per game is second only to Bill Stauffer’s 13.6.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
One of the first Tigers to play his entire career for Norm Stewart, Don Tomlinson was a key player in the program’s turnaround. As a sophomore, the forward stepped into the shoes of the departed Ron Coleman and averaged 15.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. As a junior he earned All-Big Eight honors and helped Missouri win its second straight game at Allen Field House, reigniting a rivalry that had long been dominated by Kansas. An All-Big Eight second-teamer as a senior in 1969-70, Tomlinson finished his career with 1,198 points, then the third highest total in school history. By leading the Tigers to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in five years, Tomlinson helped lay the foundation for even greater success in the 1970’s.
Friday, June 16, 2006
One of the hardest-nosed Tigers ever, Jim Kennedy emerged as a star during his sophomore season of 1974-75. Playing in a lineup that included all-time greats Willie Smith and Kim Anderson, Kennedy averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds from his small forward position, and he helped Mizzou to an 18-9 record and a spot in the short-lived National Collegiate Commissioners Invitational Tournament. But that was nothing compared to his effort the next season. A first-team All-Big Eight choice, Kennedy posted 16.2 points per game as the Tigers took their first conference title in 36 years and then advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Injuries slowed Kennedy in his senior season, but he still tallied 12.1 points per night for a team that won 21 games. Kennedy finished his career with 1,209 points and played a key role in establishing Mizzou as a force in the Big Eight.
In Mizzou’s recent history, no player has had a greater flair for the dramatic than Clarence Gilbert, a 6’2” guard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, famed for his pit bull intensity and freewheeling shot selection. What’s your favorite Gilbert moment? The night in his sophomore year when he made five of seven three-point shots and scored 24 points to lead Mizzou to an upset of Illinois? Or a month later when he went seven of ten from beyond the arc on his way to 27 points in an 81-59 rout of seventh-ranked Kansas? How about the afternoon he took a head-spinning 36 shots in a four-overtime victory over Iowa State? Or the night he drilled a 17-footer at the buzzer to beat Georgia in the NCAA Tournament? There was the 2001 Guardians Classic tournament where Gilbert won MVP honors after leading Mizzou from eleven points down with 2:15 to play to beat Iowa in the championship game. And there was the day in Colorado when he sank twelve three-pointers against the Buffs. Add it all together and you get a sensational career that saw Gilbert contribute to four NCAA Tournament teams and score 1,685 points, eighth most in Missouri history.
An All-America performer as a senior, Marshall Craig captained the 1930 Big Six champs, a team that earned coach George Edwards his first conference title. Playing both center and guard, Craig routinely scored in double figures in an age when 30 points often were enough to win.
Something of a forgotten man in the history of Mizzou hoops, Henry Smith was a crucial catalyst of the program’s rebirth early in Norm Stewart’s tenure as coach. Smith arrived at Missouri in 1969 after two years in junior college and helped the Tigers take third place in the Big Eight in 1970, their first upper-division finish in five years. The 6’7” center averaged 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and earned honorable mention in the conference while playing alongside veteran star Don Tomlinson. Then, as a senior, Smith simply erupted. He kicked off the year with 35 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Arkansas, and maintained that level of play all season long. A first-team All-Big Eight choice, Smith averaged 22.3 points and 9.4 rebounds for the year. He capped his career with 24 points and 14 boards in a heartbreaking overtime loss to Kansas at Brewer Field House, as the Jayhawks completed an undefeated record in the Big Eight.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Ray Bob Carey came to Mizzou from Cameron, Missouri, beginning his career under coach Sparky Stalcup and finishing it under the eye of Bob Vanatta. A gifted 6’6” forward, Carey earned All-Big Eight honors in 1964 as he averaged 18.9 points and 9.9 rebounds, and helped the Tigers to their first winning season in eight years. His career total of 1,016 points stood fifth on Mizzou all-time list at the time of his graduation, and his career average of 8.5 rebounds per game still ranks eighth.
The man Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs incredulously called “a nice walk-on,” Paul O’Liney walked out of the shadows in the middle of the 1993-94 season and straight into Missouri lore. O’Liney led Pensacola Community College to the national junior college championship in 1993 and then sat out the first semester of the 1993-94 season while he finished his associates degree. After watching Missouri get scorched by 52 points at Arkansas, O’Liney figured the Tigers could use some help, so he joined the team just after Christmas (the fact that his aunt lived in Columbia didn’t hurt). A broad-shouldered swingman, O’Liney immediately became Mizzou’s sixth man and gave the team instant offense off the bench. His play helped the Tigers make their epic undefeated run through the Big Eight, and then advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. In 1994-95, after the graduation of half of the championship roster and a season-ending injury to Kelly Thames, O’Liney, with an average of 19.7 points per game, carried Missouri to a surprising 20-win season and a victory over Indiana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He nearly carried the Tigers to a shocking upset of top-ranked UCLA in the second round, but his 23-point performance was wiped away by Tyus Edney’s infamous last-second shot.
Missouri’s first truly great player, Fred Williams (older brother of fellow Tiger great George Williams) earned All-America honors for the 1915-16 season (retroactively awarded by the Helms Foundation in 1957) and was named first team All-Missouri Valley in 1916 and 1917. A high jumper on the track team, the Tiger center was especially valuable in an era in which a jump ball followed each score. A soft touch from long range helped Williams earn the Valley scoring title as a senior. The 1917 Savitar captured his essence succinctly: “The play centered about him, the spirit radiated from him, and the strategy rested in him.”
One of the great aerial acrobats in Missouri history, 6’5” Rickey Paulding came to Columbia from Detroit and made an immediate impression with his extreme athleticism. In his sophomore season, Paulding helped key Mizzou’s run to the 2002 Elite Eight, earning a spot on the All-West Regional team after leading the Tigers with an 18.3 point average in their four NCAA Tournament games. The next season, after the departures of Kareem Rush and Clarence Gilbert, Paulding became Missouri’s dominant offensive player, averaging 17.4 points on the year. He capped his junior season with a remarkable 36-point performance in an overtime loss to Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In his senior year, Paulding averaged 15.1 points per game and wrapped up his career with 1,673 points, good for ninth place on the Tigers’ all-time list.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
A native of South Dakota, Medford Park attended high school at Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri, where he earned acclaim in basketball and began to build a legacy that would culminate with an NBA championship. At Mizzou, Park managed to stand out even while playing alongside all-time greats like Bill Stauffer, Bob Reiter, Win Wilfong and Norm Stewart. An All-Big Seven selection as a senior, Park also earned All-America honors from Look magazine. Park used his powerful 6’2”, 220-pound frame to become one of the top perimeter defenders of his day. Offensively, he was a playmaking guard who blossomed into a prolific scorer, averaging 15.4 points per game as a senior and finishing his career as one of the top point producers in school history. After graduation, Park spent four seasons in the NBA, mostly with the St. Louis Hawks. In 1958, Park and erstwhile Tiger teammate Win Wilfong won championship rings when the Hawks defeated the Boston Celtics for the title.
A skinny 6’4” shooter from Gainesville, Missouri, Joe Scott combined with Charlie Henke to form one of the great inside-outside combinations in Tiger history. An offensive gunner playing in a grind-it-out system for coach Sparky Stalcup, Scott averaged 18.4 points per game as a junior, his career-best output. But his most famous performance came the following season, in his next-to-last game. On March 6, 1961, the senior sharp-shooter entered The Zone and stayed there for a full forty minutes, as he dropped 46 points in Nebraska in a 97-76 MU victory, an effort that remains Missouri’s single-game scoring record.
The University of Missouri endured some historically futile basketball seasons in the mid-to-late-1960’s, but you can’t blame Ron Coleman. The guard from Jefferson City was a fine shooter, and he topped 20 points five times as a sophomore as the Tigers posted a 13-11 record. Then, after the graduations of most of Mizzou’s top players, he averaged better than 20 points per game as a junior and senior, though the Tigers won just six of 49 games over those two seasons. The first Tiger to twice score 500 points in a season, Coleman ended his career second only to Charlie Henke on the all-time scoring list, and his career average of 17.8 points per game still ranks sixth all-time at Missouri.
A ferocious point guard from Detroit, Lee Coward wrote himself into Missouri lore as a freshman, twice beating Kansas on buzzer-beating jump shots, first in Columbia and again in the finals of the Big Eight Tournament. A solid scorer, distributor and defender, Coward contributed to four NCAA Tournament teams and two conference champions (1987 and 1990). Though he was a complementary scorer on teams with stars like Derrick Chievous, Byron Irvin and Doug Smith, Coward still managed to accumulate 1,273 career points, and his 431 career assists rank fourth in school history.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
A giant in his time, Wendell Baker, a 6’6” redhead from Kansas City, earned first-team All-Big Six honors in 1929 and 1930. At a time when a jump ball still followed each made basket, Baker was one of the game’s great weapons, as he dominated the tip. Primarily a guard, Baker rarely scored, but the players he defended almost never did. One of the most dominant defenders in the game’s early years, Baker led Missouri to the 1930 Big Six championship.
How’s this for a distinction? John Cooper was the first jump shooter in the history of college basketball. At a time when players would firmly plant two feet on the ground and push the ball toward the hoop with both hands, Cooper would jump, twist in mid-air and flick the ball into the basket. The style confounded the purists, but it signaled a fundamental change in the way the game would be played. Cooper, who played forward and center as a sophomore despite standing just under 5’11” tall, announced his presence emphatically in just his second varsity game, scoring five points in the final 40 seconds to lift the Tigers to victory over St. Louis, particularly remarkable considering that Missouri scored just 25 points in the entire game. He went on to share the 1932 Big Six scoring title with Ted O’Leary of Kansas, as they each averaged 11.0 points per game. After winning first team all-conference honors as a sophomore, Cooper made the second team his junior year when he became the team’s second scoring option, behind Norman Wagner. He saved his most critical points for last that season, tallying a pair of overtime baskets in the year’s final game to give the Tigers a win over Kansas State – a victory that gave Missouri a winning record overall and in league play. Dr. Cooper (big brother to Tiger legend Clay Cooper) went on to a distinguished career in academia, authoring several books and teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington.
A 6’9” forward from Detroit, Nathan Buntin cracked Missouri’s lineup early in his freshman season and helped the Tigers to a surprising Big Eight title, his 11.8 points per game ranking second on the team only to Derrick Chievous. Though his role diminished somewhat over the next two seasons, Buntin came back with a vengeance in his senior year. Early that season, he produced 24 points and 15 rebounds in a win at seventh-ranked Arkansas. Later, he scored 22 points as Mizzou beat top-ranked Kansas and ascended to number one in the polls for the first time in eight years. For the season, he averaged 14.8 points and 9.5 boards per game as the Tigers took yet another league crown. Buntin finished his career with 1,308 points and 727 rebounds.
The disarmingly courteous off-court persona of Norman O. Wagner, a standout from Normandy High School in St. Louis, belied the fire that burned within. Athletics director Chester Brewer called the sterling student-athlete “probably the best all-around man the University has had in a generation.” Wagner stood out in the classroom, on the diamond and on the hardwood. A recipient of the prestigious Big Six Medal for Athletics and Scholarship, Wagner was named the league’s outstanding pitcher for the 1933 baseball season. He also earned first team All-Big Six honors in basketball in 1933, a season in which he won the conference scoring title with 11.4 points per game. The greatest reflection on Wagner’s character and growth as a basketball player may have come from his coach, George Edwards, who said that, through dedication, Wagner developed “from a mediocre player to one of the most skillful in American intercollegiate basketball.”
Monday, June 12, 2006
One of the most versatile big men ever at Mizzou, Springfield’s 6’9” Greg Cavener recorded the only triple-double in the first century of Missouri basketball, a 16-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist effort against Wisconsin-Green Bay early in the 1983-84 season. As a freshman, Cavener was a reserve on the 1982 Big Eight championship team. The next year, he started all 34 games to help the Tigers to their fourth straight title, averaging nearly 11 points and 9 rebounds per contest. After the graduations of Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold, Cavener became a leader for Norm Stewart’s teams in his junior and senior years. He continued to fill all the columns in the box score and graduated with some remarkable personal numbers: 1,097 points, 894 rebounds (sixth all-time), 322 assists (eleventh), 69 blocked shots (ninth), and a 54.8% field goal percentage (sixth).
An eagle-eyed shooter/scorer from Madison, Missouri, Lionel Smith starred for Sparky Stalcup’s teams of the mid-1950’s. He averaged more than 10 points per game as a sophomore, even while playing alongside established stars like Bob Reiter, Med Park and Norm Stewart, and helped the Tigers to a second-place finish in the Big Seven. Smith again helped Missouri to a second-place finish in 1955-56 while playing second fiddle to Stewart. But as a senior, Smith emerged as Mizzou’s dominant player, averaging 20.4 points per game. His signature moment came late in the season when he scored 44 against Marquette to establish a new Tiger single-game record. Smith finished his career with 992 points, then third all-time at Missouri.
A star on Sparky Stalcup’s early teams at Missouri, Bud Heineman blossomed into one of the most potent scorers in the first fifty years of Tiger basketball. A 5’10” forward from Versailles, Missouri, Heineman’s left-handed jump shot propelled Mizzou to a stunning upset of defending national champ City College of New York early in the 1950-51 season. Heineman went on to score 283 points on the year, the best total by a Tiger in thirty years.
A high-scoring guard, Jeff Strong came to Mizzou in 1984 after two seasons in junior college. Asked to play both backcourt positions, Strong was a star player in a transitional era, bridging the gap between the Stipo/Sundvold years and the late-1980’s success of teams led by Derrick Chievous. Strong made a statement just weeks into his Tiger career, scoring 24 points in shocking win over seventh-ranked North Carolina in the championship game of the Hawaii Pacific Invitational. He averaged 16.8 points on the year and helped Missouri earn an invitation to the NIT after a year’s absence from post-season play. As a senior, Strong lost the early part of his season to a stress fracture in his foot, but he returned and scored 18.5 points per game to lead the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
The national junior college player of the year at Moberly Community College, 6’7” forward Malcolm Thomas arrived at the University of Missouri in 1983, just after Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold departed the program. Asked to help carry the team in the long shadows of such legendary players, Thomas immediately became Mizzou’s go-to guy, averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Thomas was even better as a senior, earning first-team All-Big Eight honors while leading the Tigers with 17.4 points per contest.
In addition to being the older brother of Tiger great Arthur “Bun” Browning, George “Pidge” Browning was a fine player in his own right. A good ball-handler with remarkable speed, he was an effective scorer as a guard, a position relied on mostly for defense in his era. Pidge also played forward and gained a reputation as the most versatile player in the Missouri Valley Conference, earning a spot on the All-Valley team in 1921. In Browning’s three varsity seasons, the Tigers won 48 of 53 games and captured two league titles. Along with Mizzou legend George Williams, Pidge went on to star for the Kansas City Athletic Club Blue Diamonds, one of the nation’s finest basketball teams.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
A skywalking transfer from Kansas City’s Penn Valley Community College, Clay Johnson played much bigger than the six-feet-four-inches listed in the program. Called upon to help replace the great Willie Smith’s production, Johnson had a fine 1976-77 season, averaging 13.1points and 7.9 rebounds while playing alongside Jim Kennedy and Kim Anderson on Missouri’s front line. Johnson gave one of the great performances in Mizzou history when the Tigers visited Colorado, scoring 39 points on 14-of-17 field goal shooting while making all eleven of his free throws. His efforts helped an injury-plagued team finish the season with a 21-8 record. As a senior, Johnson scored over 17 points per game, and capped his career with a 30-point performance against Utah in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bob Price, a 6’2” guard from Granite City, Illinois, starred for Bob Vanatta’s first two Missouri teams. A hard-nosed scorer and playmaker, Price averaged 13.2 points per game as a junior in 1962-63. Then, as a senior, he finished second in the Big Eight scoring race with 19.6 points per game and earned a spot on the all-conference squad. His efforts throughout the season – including a long game-winning jumper against Air Force in the opener – helped the Tigers produce their first winning record in eight years.
Friday, June 09, 2006
More than just a fine player, Al Abram was a pioneer at the University of Missouri. In 1956, the 6’5” forward/center became Mizzou’s first African-American scholarship athlete. After breaking Missouri’s color barrier, big number 50 had the unenviable task of guarding Kansas’s Wilt Chamberlain, the dominant player of the day. Despite battling prejudice and The Big Dipper, Abram became a standout. His senior year averages of 16.1 points and 11.5 rebounds are impressive by any standard.
A star on Missouri’s Big Six co-championship teams of 1939 and 1940, Blaine Currence was also a formidable footballer who played end and punted on the Tiger team that won the 1939 league title and earned a trip to the Orange Bowl. A versatile athlete, the 6’5” Currence had low-post size and perimeter skills, traits that made him among the most difficult players in the heartland to defend. An all-conference pick at center as a senior, Currence carried the Tigers to their second straight title with a series of double-figure scoring performances down the stretch of the 1939-40 season.
George Flamank and Ned Monsees combined to give coach Bob Vanatta a rough and tough (if undersized) presence in the paint during his first three seasons at Missouri. After two years of playing a supporting role to frontcourt star Ray Bob Carey, Flamank and Monsees busted out in the 1964-65 season. Monsees produced a tremendous effort in the season’s fifth game, recording 24 points and 24 rebounds in an upset victory over fourth-ranked St. Louis University. Later, the two combined for 42 points and 27 rebounds to help Missouri defeat Kansas State, breaking a 23-game losing streak against the Wildcats. Flamank maintained his high level of play throughout the season and earned a spot on the All-Big Eight team. His 10.8 rebounds per game that season ranks eighth on Mizzou’s all-time list. Monsees, for his part, pulled down 11.8 boards a night, number five on the list.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Splitting time between guard, forward and center, Pleasant Hill’s George Bond contributed to some of the most accomplished teams in the first century of Missouri basketball. In his three varsity seasons (1919-20 through 1921-22), the Tigers compiled a cumulative 50-3 record and won three conference championships. A high jumper on Mizzou’s track team, Bond was a superb athlete who drew the Tigers’ toughest defensive assignments. But he could also score in bunches, frequently tallying double figures during a time in which teams often scored less than 30 points in an entire game. Upon graduating, Bond was promoted from team captain to head coach, a position he maintained for four seasons. Unfortunately, success was harder to come by than it had been in his playing days. After posting a 15-3 record in his first season, Bond’s Tigers won just 19 of 54 games over the next three years.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
One of the steadiest, headiest players ever at Mizzou, Brian Grawer was the glue that held the Tigers together for four years. A savvy playmaker and dead-eye long-range shooter, he ran the point for Norm Stewart’s final two teams, and helped the coach win in his last visit to Allen Field House by scoring 18 points in 71-63 upset of the Jayhawks. Then, in Quin Snyder’s first two seasons, Grawer was the ultimate team player, gladly changing his role to accommodate talents like Keyon Dooling and Kareem Rush. Grawer’s impact on his younger teammates was noted by Snyder, who called him one of the best leaders Snyder had ever seen up close. That leadership was especially valuable during Grawer’s senior season. With Rush sidelined by injury and Clarence Gilbert working through discipline issues, Grawer held the team together and led the Tigers to a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
One of the most electrifying athletes ever to wear the black and gold, 6’3’ guard Keyon Dooling had an up-and-down freshman season until the Tigers traveled to Lawrence, Kansas. Dooling scored 15 points as Missouri upset the Jayhawks, who were nearly invincible at Allen Field House. His play helped Mizzou to a second place finish in the Big 12, and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament after a three-year absence. Then, in 1999-2000, Dooling emerged as Missouri’s top player. He scored 15.3 points per game and earned second team All-Big 12 honors as he carried the Tigers to their second straight NCAA appearance. Dooling then cut short his collegiate career to enter the NBA draft, and was taken with the 10th overall pick.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Today I received proofs for the entire book that need to be read, marked up and returned to the publisher by this time next week. Accordingly, the countdown is likely to creep along at a slower pace for the next few days, though I'll make sure to add at least one new entry each morning.
At 6’5” tall (and nearly as wide), Albert White played bigger – and smaller – than his size. An effective rebounder, White could also handle the ball and lead the fast break. After one season at Michigan, White transferred to Missouri and made an immediate splash with a 16-point, 11-rebound performance in a victory over Illinois. For the year, White averaged nearly 11 points per game in a supporting role. Then, as a junior, he became the Tigers’ go-to player, frequently recording double figures in points and rebounds, and just missing a triple-double with a 16-point, 10-rebound, 9-assist effort against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. White posted 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the season, and carried Missouri to an NCAA Tournament appearance after a three-year absence. He left after his junior season to turn professional.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
How great and wholly unpredictable a weekend has it been for Mizzou baseball? Staff ace 1A is a hard-luck loser in the Tigers' first game of the double-elimination Malibu regional, and ace 1B gets a no-decision after throwning 7 1/3 strong innings, only to have two members of the bullpen hurl 6 2/3 shutout innings to allow Missouri to survive in a marathon. When hotshot freshman Rick Zagone then gave up just one run in a complete game to eliminate UCLA, it was no huge shock. But when fellow frosh Aaron Crow delivered an identical performance to beat Pepperdine and force a winner-take-all meeting on Monday, it was something else entirely. With the season on the line, Crow earned his first victory as a Tiger and moved Mizzou to within a game of the rarefied air of the NCAA super regionals.
A storybook weekend demands a fairytale ending. Fight Tigers.
A storybook weekend demands a fairytale ending. Fight Tigers.
If anyone ever symbolized the kind of all-guts, no-glory role players that flourished on Norm Stewart’s best teams, it is Mike Sandbothe and Greg Church. They arrived together as freshmen in 1985 and contributed to four NCAA Tournament teams, including the 1987 squad that won the conference championship. Throughout their careers, Sandbothe and Church did every little thing their teams needed, from grabbing loose balls to making the extra pass to scoring when called upon. Though numbers barely capture their contributions, here are two that stand out: 134 – the number of games that Mike Sandbothe appeared in, more than any other player in Missouri’s history; and 13 – the number of consecutive points Church scored for the Tigers at the end of a 66-65 win over Colorado in the 1988-89 regular season finale, a victory that helped steady a team that was staggering in the wake of Norm Stewart’s battle with cancer.
Freshmen on the great 1993-94 team, Derek Grimm and Jason Sutherland introduced themselves to Missouri fans by entering the epic contest game against Illinois after four other Tigers had fouled out, and helping Mizzou take a 108-107 victory. A raw-boned 6’8” power forward, Grimm was a surprisingly accurate three-point shooter, making 41.8% of his tries for his career. Sutherland, a 6’1” guard, possessed a warrior’s mentality and an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation through four years that saw him ride the ragged edge between control and chaos. Ultimately, each topped 1,000 points in a Tiger uniform.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
A 6’7” junior college transfer from Paducah, Kentucky, Gene Jones played his first season at Missouri for coach Bob Vanatta before finishing his career under Norm Stewart. Jones made a huge splash early on, collecting 26 rebounds in an overtime loss to Rutgers, the second highest total in Tiger history. Though he missed the second half of his junior season, Jones returned as a senior and was the best player on Norm Stewart’s first Missouri team. By averaging 18.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, Jones helped kick start the transformation of Missouri basketball from perennial doormat to resurgent power.
Friday, June 02, 2006
An All-America selection by College Humor magazine in 1931 (yes, a legitimate honor), and described as “one of the cleverest basketball players in the country,” Max Collings helped salvage Missouri’s 1930-31 season when he joined the team after the end of the first semester, during which he had been ineligible. The Tigers started the season with just one win in seven games, but after Collings arrived, they won eight of their last eleven, including a victory over conference champ Kansas in the season finale.
These are the guys who defined what it was to be “Norm Stewart players” – tough, heady, willing to sacrifice individual glory for team success. While stars Henry Smith and John Brown made headlines, Greg Flaker, Mike Griffin and Mike Jeffries formed the backbone of the team that brought Missouri basketball to prominence for the first time in the modern era. Of the three, only Flaker – a 6’3” guard from Cape Girardeau – came to Columbia as a basketball player. Griffin arrived at Mizzou as a baseball player, while the stoutly-built Jeffries originally was a quarterback on the football team. Together, they helped Missouri finish second in the Big Eight in the 1971-72 season, the Tigers’ best showing in 15 years. The lightning-quick Griffin excelled as a playmaker and defender, while Flaker and Jeffries proved to be opportunistic scorers. The next year, the trio helped carry Missouri to its first-ever 20-win season (21-6) and the Tigers’ first post-season berth in 28 years. In the first round of the NIT, Flaker scored 27 points in an 82-81 overtime loss to St. John’s that ended his career and Griffin’s, too. Jeffries returned for one more season, highlighted by a 28-point effort in the semifinal of the Big Eight holiday tournament that ultimately helped Missouri secure its second straight tourney title.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
A 6’3” guard from St. Louis, Sonny Siebert joined the varsity in the 1956-57 season and immediately became one of the Tigers’ most consistent scorers. Filling the place of Norm Stewart (who graduated the previous year), Siebert helped key a perimeter attack designed to counter the emergence of giants like Kansas’s Wilt Chamberlain. As a junior, Siebert scored 27 in a win over Indiana, and 31 in an upset of nationally-ranked Oklahoma. For the year, he averaged 16.7 points per game and was named to the United Press all-conference team. After a lucrative offer from the Cleveland Indians, Siebert skipped his senior season in favor of a professional baseball career that spanned twelve major league seasons and included 140 wins as a pitcher.
A 6’8” forward from Litchfield, Michigan, Jeff Warren played alongside stars like Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler and employed sharp elbows and keen instincts to great effect. And though he didn’t shoot a lot, Warren was one of the most efficient offensive players Mizzou has ever known. As a sophomore, Warren made 67.6% of his field-goal attempts, an all-time Missouri record. The next year, he converted 24 consecutive shots late in the season, missing the national record by just one shot. For his career, Warren shot 61.4% from the field, the best mark in the first century of Mizzou basketball.
Slick-shooting Phil Scott starred for Missouri in the immediate aftermath of the first World War and a devastating influenza pandemic. Noted as one of the quickest players of his era, Scott played forward in the ancient scheme that resembled modern hockey formations, with forwards and centers attacking and guards retreating to defend their goal. His sharp eye and soft touch made him the Tigers’ designated free throw shooter during a time in which one player could take all of his team’s foul shots. Playing for Hall of Fame coach Walter Meanwell in the 1919-20 season, Scott won the Missouri Valley scoring title with 15.2 points per game, and helped lead the Tigers to a 17-1 record and their second conference championship.
In his sophomore and junior years, 6’5” forward Gary Link played a supporting role on the first two Missouri teams to post 20-win seasons. Then, as a senior, Link stepped into the void left by John Brown’s graduation and helped the Tigers win their third straight Big Eight holiday tournament, scoring 26 points in the title game against Iowa State. Throughout a tumultuous year marked by several player defections, Link was a rock, averaging 17.3 points per game for Norm Stewart’s club.