When it was over, after Tyus Edney's shot had squeezed through
the tangle of Tiger fingers and through the net, after the UCLA
players had leaped off the bench and onto the floor with the
sense that they were bound for a national title, Missouri's
Julian Winfield slunk off the court of the Boise State Pavilion
with one thought on his mind. "We're not going to dwell on
this," he told his teammates in the gloomy locker room. "We're
going to move on."
Months have passed, and though the sting of Missouri's 75-74
last-second loss to the Bruins in the second round of the NCAA
tournament hasn't completely vanished, the Tigers have moved on.
Literally. The players journeyed more than 25,000 miles together
on a summer trip to Australia. But the barnstorming tour Down
Under proved to be too much Jules Verne and too little Julius
Erving to suit coach Norm Stewart.
"The idea was to bring the team a little closer together while
getting the benefits of traveling overseas," says Stewart. "We
did grow closer. But most of the guys really didn't play well.
Some actually regressed."
Although Missouri racked up a dreadful 1-6 record, the trip was
fruitful for Winfield, a senior. At just 6'3", he is the Tigers'
best rebounder, best passer and best defender, and in Australia
he showed signs of developing the outside touch he has lacked.
Stewart is counting on Winfield, who averaged 11.1 points and
7.6 rebounds per game a year ago, to help make up for the
departure of Paul O'Liney, the team's leading scorer in 20 of 29
games last season.
Perhaps the biggest unknown for the Tigers is sophomore Kelly
Thames. A 6'7" forward, Thames missed last season after tearing
the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a
preseason drill. He had been the Big Eight Freshman of the Year
in 1993-94 (averaging 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds), but with a
game built on quick, slashing moves, he will need to be fully
recovered to be effective.
If the Tigers have to look elsewhere for points, they will most
likely turn to the Haley twins--7-foot seniors Sammy and Simeon
(following page)--and point guard Kendrick Moore, a sophomore;
they all appear ready for the challenge. Forward Derek Grimm and
guard Jason Sutherland return as solid starters.
The pearl of Stewart's recruiting class, Danny Allouche, a 6'4"
deep-range marksman from Israel, should also help immediately.
For the last three years Allouche, a 21-year-old freshman, was
in the Israeli army. He's Missouri's first foreign player and
has already found his first fan in Winfield.
"Danny is a tough player," says Winfield. "We played over the
summer, and he is a pure shooter who'll be a big surprise to a
lot of people."
What shouldn't be surprising is that Missouri should contend
once again for the conference crown. The question for Stewart
and the Tigers, after a summer of traveling together and losing
together, is whether they can win a national championship
together. "This is my 40th working year," says Stewart, "and the
one thing I've learned is that I know absolutely nothing. So
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Winfield is the Tigers' triple threat. [Julian Winfield]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Norm Stewart
Career record: 660-319 (34 seasons)
Record at Missouri: 563-277 (28 seasons)
1994-95 record: 20-9 (final ranking: 18th)
Big Eight record: 8-6 (fourth)
SF *Julian Winfield, 6'3", Sr.
Despite height, led team in rebounding
PF *Derek Grimm, 6'9", Jr.
Named to Big Eight Most Improved Team
C *Sammy Haley, 7'1", Sr.
Career-high 12 rebounds vs. Nebraska in '94-95
SG *Jason Sutherland, 6'1", Jr.
Made 39.0% of his three-pointers
PG Kendrick Moore, 6'2", Soph.
Didn't start but led team in assists, with 71
Dec. 5 at Arkansas
Hogs handed Tigers first loss last season
Dec. 20 vs. Illinois
Illini out for revenge after 19-point loss in '94-95
Jan. 21 at Iowa State
Winfield had 18 boards in 59-56 win last year
Feb. 10 vs. Kansas
One team has swept series each of last seven years
Feb. 18 vs. Maryland
First ACC opponent since 1989 (beat North Carolina)