Team quiet about Hannah's broken jaw

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | 12:24 a.m. CST; updated 12:18 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Missouri Tigers guard Stephon Hannah had his jaw broken during an altercation at Athena Night Club on Sunday. The Tigers had defeated Colorado in Boulder earlier that day.

This article was changed to include Coach Mike Anderson's first name.

COLUMBIA — Stefhon Hannah is with family in Chicago while Missouri’s coaches and teammates try to figure out exactly what happened early Sunday morning when the starting point guard had his jaw broken outside a Columbia nightclub.

After surgery Sunday, Hannah was released from University Hospital and Clinics on Monday afternoon while the team dealt with unanswered questions.

Practice was closed to the media Monday and guards Matt Lawrence and J.T. Tiller, the only players allowed to speak with the media, were kept tight-lipped by athletic department staff.

Coach Mike Anderson spoke for about 11 minutes, but said he couldn’t answer questions about the incident that occurred outside Athena Night Club.

“I am trying to get the facts as we speak right now,” Anderson said.

Anderson dismissed the rumor that Hannah was hit in the face with a brick, saying, “That’s news to me.” He also would not say if he knew whether other Missouri players were with Hannah Sunday morning.

The coach and players expressed concern for the well-being of Hannah, who they said was like family, and remained optimistic about the future without their leading scorer.

Hannah, who also leads the team in assists and steals, is expected to be out for 4 to 6 weeks, which could mean the rest of the season.

“We know we have to stay strong,” Tiller said. “We have to stay strong mentally, and we have to get ready for (the Nebraska game). Our prayers go out to him, but we also have to get ready for the game.”

Keon Lawrence, who started eight games last season alongside Hannah, will likely replace Hannah in the starting lineup in the Tigers home game against Nebraska on Wednesday, Anderson said.

Details of the incident are still unknown. Hannah was named in an incident report made by the Columbia Police Department but no arrests were made, and Sgt. Rian Richenberger said the police are not expecting to make any arrests involving the case.

Hannah had successful surgery to repair his fractured jaw Sunday and Anderson said he was sore but doing well after visiting with the player before he was released Monday. Anderson said he didn’t think Hannah underwent reconstructive surgery, and that Hannah’s jaw was not wired shut as part of the surgery.

The incident involving Hannah comes after Anderson instituted a “no tolerance” policy in July after a series of other incidents involving Missouri players. Anderson created the policy after forward DeMarre Carroll was shot in the foot July 5 outside Club Tropicana in Columbia.

When the players were asked about the early Sunday morning incident or about Anderson’s policy, the team’s information director deferred the questions to Anderson.

A reporter asked Tiller if he was upset at Hannah for apparently being in the wrong place at the wrong time, to which Tiller paused, smiled and then looked at the team’s information director, Dave Reiter, who announced: “Next question.”

Anderson has been vague when describing the policy, which was the case again Monday.

“In other words, the tolerance we are talking about is any behavior that I deem is inappropriate for one of the members of our basketball team,” Anderson said.

Earlier this month, Matt Lawrence said the players were on “lockdown” and are not allowed to go out. He was stopped before he could answer when a reporter asked him to explain the no tolerance rules Monday.

When Anderson was asked whether Hannah was violating the rules by simply being at a nightclub late at night, Anderson initially avoided the question but then said the rules were internal when he was asked a second time.

“We have rules in place. We have team rules,” Anderson said, emphasizing the word team. “They are team rules. We have team rules. We discipline accordingly.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a player was punished for violating rules. Days after Carroll’s incident, Anderson dismissed last year’s starting center from the team for striking a man with the butt end of a shot gun in St. Louis. In September, forward Darryl Butterfield was suspended for the intrasquad Black and Gold game and an exhibition game after he was arrested and charged with third-degree domestic assault and then pled guilty to peace disturbance.

During the Big 12 Conference teleconference Monday morning, Anderson said each situation was independent and that he doesn’t consider the off-court incidents to be a problem.

“I think there’s a concern of what the perception is, but I want people to understand that I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I now know that for a fact,” Anderson said. “Right now, my biggest concern is with Stefhon Hannah and finding out what did take place.”

Anderson said he hopes to talk to Hannah in the next couple days.

Until he does figure it out, Anderson said he would not determine if Hannah will be punished.

For now, the team is focusing on how to replace its best player with 11 conference games left to play.

“We’ll do it by committee,” Anderson said. “We’ve got some versatile guys that can do some other things.”

Keon Lawrence, Jason Horton and Tiller are expected to inherit the bulk of the point guard roles. Matt Lawrence said the team might play more zone defense to conserve energy, but was confident the team could overcome the loss.

“We’ve always seemed to bounce back in one way or another. This is just a little bad with timing this time,” Matt Lawrence said. “Our teammates are going to have to step up. It’s tough going in the middle of the season but things happen, life happens, so you know, it’s just the way that we step up through adversity.”

It is not yet known when Hannah will return to Columbia.

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jeff crumley March 28, 2008 | 11:19 a.m.


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