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Unlikely hero emerges for Missouri

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | 11:25 p.m. CST; updated 1:18 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 13, 2009

COLUMBIA — Michael Anderson Jr. walked across Norm Stewart Court with his father, coach Mike Anderson, at one arm and his mother, Marcheita Anderson, on the other.

For a few proud moments, dad stopped being a coach. When the family reached the center of the floor, Mike Anderson whispered a few words into his son's ear and playfully patted his head. Dad choked up.

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"It was a very emotional game for our guys and for me, certainly it was," Mike Anderson said. "It was a proud moment for me as a father."

Coach, and maybe a little of dad Anderson too, decided to put Anderson Jr. into the starting lineup for Senior Night. It was the first start of his career.

Anderson Jr. knew his appearance would be short. He is usually Missouri's 12th man, and the No. 15 Tigers needed their top players on the floor against No. 4 Oklahoma.

But while Anderson Jr. was on the floor, he made his minutes count.

In the first two minutes of the game, he had a steal, an assist and a rebound. A minute later, he came away with another steal, darting into the passing lane.

When Anderson Jr. came off the floor five minutes into the game, Missouri led 13-7.

"I'm just tickled to death as a father, and I'm a father to all those guys, but especially him, to go out in that setting and to really, really spark our basketball team," Anderson said. "Can you imagine, in the biggest game of the year, or one of the biggest games, he comes out and puts on a performance?"

Anderson Jr. came into the game averaging 6.3 minutes and 0.8 points. He hasn't played at all in 13 games this year. But in one of the most important games of the year, he stepped up.

"We had a fast start thanks to Mike Junior," said senior forward DeMarre Carroll, who cried during the pregame ceremony. "He never started a game, but all of a sudden coach throws him in the lineup and he makes some big plays."

Anderson Jr.'s strong performance might have come as a surprise to some in the arena, but not his mom. She's been lobbying for her son to play more all season.

"His momma's been getting on me all the time. She really has," Mike Anderson said.

In 2004, Anderson Jr. walked on at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where his father was coaching. He sat out as a redshirt his first year, then played in just seven games the next year. When dad moved on to Missouri in 2006, Anderson Jr. followed.

Anderson Jr. graduated after last season. But he decided to come back as a graduate student to use his final year of eligibility and play for his dad one last time.

At UAB, Anderson Jr. was part of two teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, making him the only member of the Tigers with tournament experience.

He has used his knowledge of the tournament and of his father's system to help his teammates, making him an asset to the program even when he isn't playing.

"He's kind of like the granddaddy to these guys," Anderson said. "He's like a little coach right there sitting next to me, and I think he's done a tremendous job with these guys."

Acting as a coach and father at the same time can be a challenge, but Anderson said watching his son grow up has been a pleasure.


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