Two themes emerged from Missouri's Black & Gold scrimmage to kick
off year III of the Quin Snyder era. For starters, Snyder is
right when he says junior forward Kareem Rush has clearly
improved from last season, no small feat for a guy who led the
Big 12 in scoring with 21.1 points a game. "He's playing without
the ball, learning to use his brain in addition to his body,"
Snyder says of Rush's newfound subtlety.
Whether the Tigers fulfill their potential as a dark-horse Final
Four pick, however, depends largely on the second theme: Senior
guard Clarence Gilbert is still the nation's most shameless
gunner, and he can talk all he wants about "slowing down and not
taking bad shots" after a season in which he sank just 36.4% of
his nearly 15 shots a game, but in the scrimmage he jacked up
rim-rattlers the first two times he touched the ball. "Look,
Clarence is a gunner," says Rush in Gilbert's defense. "He can
shoot us into games, and sometimes he can shoot us out of them.
I can't take all the shots." In any case Snyder can only hope
the heading on the Black & Gold game stat sheet--Missouri versus
Missouri--doesn't describe the Tigers' attack this season.
Yet there's plenty to be encouraged about as Snyder enters the
next stage of what he calls a five-year plan to turn Missouri
into a national power. Sophomore center Arthur Johnson is a
reliable inside scorer, even more so now that he has dropped 35
pounds to a svelte 265. (Likewise, promising sophomore forward
Travon Bryant lost about 30 pounds and is now 243.) If junior
college transfer Uche Okafor, a 6'11" center from Nigeria, can
gain his eligibility--the NCAA is investigating the contract he
signed with a Russian pro team three years ago--then Missouri
will easily have the most formidable inside punch of Snyder's
Better conditioning means the Tigers will be merciless
defensively, though Snyder remains worried about rebounding
(Missouri had a rebounding margin of -0.7 a game last year) and
excessive turnovers. Whenever a player turns the ball over in
practice, everyone in the gym--coaches included--has to drop and do
10 pushups. Nonetheless, there's plenty of energy left to fuel
the rekindled rivalry with Big 12 cousin Kansas. Snyder, who
dropped midnight madness this year, recently took a jab at the
Jayhawks' annual skit-filled midnight festivities, telling a
reporter, "We're not the drama club. We're a basketball team."
Snyder chuckles when reminded of his neighbor-baiting smack-talk.
"Sometimes when you're new to an area, people don't believe you
understand the depth of a rivalry," he says. "I don't think
there's any question whether I understand it or not."
GRADUATION RATE: 13%
AVERAGE NUMBER OF WINS: 19.7
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD: 6-7
McDONALD'S ALL-AMERICANS: 2
PLAYERS IN NBA: 2
COMMENT: Under previous coach Norm Stewart, guard Anthony Peeler
pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and false
imprisonment following an incident with his girlfriend in 1992.
He received five years probation. (Six years later the woman was
awarded $2.4 million in damages in civil suit against Peeler.)
Tigers had to return money from '94 NCAA tournament because
forward Jevon Crudup had received benefits from agent. Coach
Quin Snyder hired in '99 in part to clean up image, but program
reprimanded by NCAA two years ago for improperly flying in
families of recruits Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding.
(Families had to pay back cost of tickets.) In May 2000 Snyder's
top assistant, Tony Harvey, pleaded guilty to driving with a
blood alcohol level above the legal limit.
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Kareem Rush[#] 6'6" Jr. 21.1 ppg
PF Travon Bryant 6'9" So. 3.5 rpg
C Arthur Johnson[#] 6'9" So. 7.8 rpg
SG Clarence Gilbert[#] 6'2" Sr. 16.5 ppg
PG Wesley Stokes 5'10" So. 6.4 ppg
2000-01 record: 20-13
Final rank (coaches' poll): not ranked