COLUMBIA — With 13:52 left in the first half of Monday’s game at Kansas, guard Michael Anderson Jr. walked onto the court to replace J.T. Tiller.
He was no longer just the coach’s kid.
Anderson Jr., the son of coach Mike Anderson and a walk-on to the Missouri basketball team, had played in only seven of the team’s first 20 games, mostly blowouts, failing to register any points in four shooting attempts.
Against Kansas, Anderson Jr., made a case that he is more than just the walk-on, coach’s son who plays the final minutes in a big win. He played six minutes, even with scholarship players available on the bench.
“He is a good player, he understands the game,” assistant coach and Anderson Jr.’s cousin T.J. Cleveland said. “He has been waiting his turn.”
Anderson Jr., had played in the two games before when suspended players left the team shorthanded, but against Kansas all but one player was available when Anderson took the court.
“He never forced the issue,” said forward DeMarre Carroll, who is Anderson Jr.’s cousin, roommate and best friend. “Coach said, ‘Be patient and wait, you never know when the opportunity comes.’ He got the opportunity and he is showing it.”
When only eight players were available for Missouri’s Jan. 30 game against Nebraska, Anderson Jr., was ready. He came in for Tiller midway through the first half and, after badly missing a 3-point attempt, registered 12 quality minutes in Missouri’s losing effort.
“It’s a rush man. I love it. I love crowds,” Anderson Jr., said of the game, in which he scored three points and had two assists. “Just being on the bench like that, it makes you appreciate being out there any time you are out there. I love it. I don’t care if I’m out there for two minutes or 20 minutes, I’m going all out. It’s fun. It’s always been to me.”
With his dad coaching, Anderson Jr., has been around big-time college basketball his whole life. He watched when his dad was an assistant at Arkansas, which won the national championship in 1994, and when his dad coached UAB to the Sweet 16 in 2004.
Anderson Jr. played under his father for two years at UAB before following him to Missouri last year.
“He competes hard when he gets in because he understands exactly what coach Anderson wants just because he’s been around coach Anderson so much,” Cleveland said. “He understood exactly what (former Arkansas) coach (Nolan) Richardson wanted when he was a young kid, even though he didn’t play for him.”
Now, right in the heart of the Big 12 Conference schedule, Anderson Jr., has played more in the last three games than he has since playing at Hoover High School in Birmingham, Ala.
“Mike has stepped up big,” Tiller said. “From him not really playing that much to him stepping into the role that he’s been playing, I would say, man, big ups to Mike, because he is playing very well.”
He’s not leading the team in scoring or a likely candidate to make the starting lineup against Texas A&M on Saturday, but that’s beside the point. When Missouri needed a player to come in and do the little things, Anderson was ready to step in.
“Mike goes hard in practice, he goes hard in anything he does,” Tiller said. “When he got thrown into that role, he already knew what he was going to do because it wasn’t any different than practice.”
Anderson left practice Thursday to go on a recruiting trip before speaking to the media, but Cleveland said Anderson Jr., could continue to see regular minutes depending on how the season goes.
“He (coach Anderson) just goes with the flow of the game,” Cleveland said. “If Mike’s needed, Mike knows that he has to be ready. Whatever happens just happens.”