Missouri basketball freshmen get chance to shine

Saturday, December 12, 2009 | 11:05 p.m. CST; updated 6:41 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 13, 2009
Senior guard Zaire Taylor defends against a Fairleigh Dickinson player during the Saturday's game at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers won and extended their homecourt winning streak to 24.

COLUMBIA - Missouri freshmen John Underwood and Tyler Stone have been a work in progress since they first arrived on campus.

The two freshmen have played sparingly, and have had the most to work on. For Underwood, it was his lack of strength, and Safford said Stone needed to improve his maturity. However, for the first time all season, they received extended playing time together in Missouri’s 87-36 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson to show just what they can do.

“I saw some guys who are making progress. You can see with Underwood that he is really coming along,” Anderson said. “(Stone) played with a certain balance and he knows where the ball is all the time.”

When Underwood and Stone first arrived at the first team practice, they stuck out like a red stain on a tee shirt. They hid behind the hoop doubled over and struggled to keep up with the rest of the team. The duo formed an instant bond and used each other to remain motivated. They even make sure to sit next to each other on the bench.

“Out of the freshmen it’s just me and him on the bench, so for us to get in and contribute like that and play hard, it’s good,” Underwood said.

However Saturday they proved they belong on the team. Underwood showed how much stronger he has become. During a missed shot, he jumped between two players to grab one of his team-high seven rebounds. Underwood also showed his blocking ability on a play where he was under the hoop and was able to run and block a three-point attempt. Anderson said that he is pleased by just how far Underwood has come.

“It’s all about maturing and getting a little stronger and hitting the weight room. It’s going to come with him,” Anderson said. “He wasn’t out of place and he knew what to do and what kind of moves to make, and he went three for four from the free throw line. That tells me he’s really working.”

Stone showed his ability to score. On a fast break, Stone made a spin move and then fade away jump shot off the backboard. Safford said Stone has come the farthest out of anyone on the team.

“Tyler Stone has probably come along the most out of anybody,” Safford said. “When he came in he was a whiner a little bit, but now he is more mature and grown up.”

Missouri forward Laurence Bowers said that games like this are going to big for to build on the already deep lineup. He said that experiences like this will get them ready for when the team starts its conference games.

“It’s good to get our freshmen in, guys who don’t really play that much. I think it was great for the team to get them in and get them involved so they will be ready for Big 12 play,” Bowers said.

Underwood said that Saturday’s game proved to be a great reward for the time and effort they put in during practice. He said he comes to every game with a mind set that he will play and tonight it paid off.

“It felt real good,” Underwood said. “I had to get in that conditioning and coach saw what I could do in practice, and now he got to see what I can do in the game.”

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