COLUMBIA — Last season became one that the Missouri men’s basketball team would like to put behind them.
The Tigers finished last in the SEC with a 3-15 conference record and a 9-23 overall mark.
“We’ve got a lot of making up to do, I think we all know that,” said junior guard Wes Clark. “I’m just looking forward to making a change.”
The roster certainly has changed with three players transferring and two graduating.
Two of the transfers were two of the three top scorers for the Tigers last season — Johnathan Williams III and Montaque Gill-Caesar.
One returner is sophomore guard Tramaine Isabell, who said the team is looking forward to taking a step in the right direction.
“One year doesn’t make or break a program,” he said. “I think last year definitely made us stronger. I feel like we’re more focused, we’re more to the point where the coaches and the players also, we’re focused on not letting that happen again.”
Missouri has six newcomers that are expected to battle for time on the floor to go along with six returners that had significant playing time last season.
“In my second year I have a little more comfort level with all of them,” said head coach Kim Anderson. “I recruited the new guys and the old guys I’ve been around now for a year, so we kind of know each other. I think last year we spent a lot of time getting to know each other.”
Unlike last season, Anderson has players he had a hand in getting to Missouri.
“Last year’s team did not have good chemistry,” Anderson said. “It’s not because they were bad guys, they just didn’t fit together. As I’ve said this freshman class has come in and they’ve been very well coached. I’m not saying the other guys weren’t, but they’ve been very well coached in their high school situations and they kind of understand a little more of what we expect.”
One of the newcomers is freshman Kevin Puryear, who was a star player for the Class 5 state championship Blue Springs South team.
“I just have to come in and really make an impact,” Puryear said. “My versatility is really good for me. I think I can use that to my advantage against other people and come in here and get some buckets, rebound, be physical and tough.”
Puryear is a 6-foot-7 forward who has been working on expanding his range as a shooter.
He made all three of his 3-pointers in Friday’s Black and Gold scrimmage.
“In high school my jumper was inconsistent and I think since I’ve got here it’s progressively getting better,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the greatest shooter but it’s definitely getting better.”
Puryear is one of five freshmen on the team. Forward Ryan Rosburg is the lone senior and Clark is the lone junior that was on the team last season.
“We’re really young so that’s kind of tough” Puryear said. “… I think we’ve done a good job transitioning, feeling each other out and learning how each other plays so far.”
Clark was Missouri’s point guard last season, but missed time because of an injury.
Freshman Terrence Phillips comes in as a possibility at the point as well.
Guard Martavian Payne and forward Russell Woods both come in after two years at John A. Logan College in Illinois.
Cullen VanLeer was the co-player of the year in Class 4 at Pacific High School in Missouri. Anderson said VanLeer “can shoot whenever he wants.” K.J. Walton also adds depth at the guard spot.
“I think we have some guys that have the potential to be good leaders,” Anderson said. “Wes is a guy that’s kind of emerged here in the preseason. Terrence is a guy by virtue of his position and his personality, he’s kind of a leader type guy, too.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.