COLUMBIA — Just call Keith Ramsey Mr. Fix-it.
Ramsey, a forward on the Missouri men’s basketball team may not be able to mend a leaky faucet or repair the siding on a house, but on the court he is the team’s handyman. When Oklahoma guard Tommy Mason-Griffin was successful finding holes in the Tigers' perimeter defense in Saturday’s game, Ramsey was there to fill the holes, forcing him to alter his layup attempts. When the Tigers' rebounding breaks down, Mr. Fix-it uses one of his long arms to poke balls loose and give his teammates another chance.
“Keith to me is a blue collar guy that does a lot of things,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s one of those guys that fixes a lot of things for us on defense. Between shot blocking and guarding a guard and guarding a forward, he’s just instant energy.”
Ramsey said he relishes his role as Mr. Fix-it, though the job description may not be pretty. The 6-foot 9-inch forward’s job is to guard the point guard when he breaks the trap and then switch to the team’s center when the guards get back. Once in the post, he is relied on to deflect shots or get rebounds. Against Oklahoma, Ramsey only scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds, but more importantly he limited Oklahoma’s two forwards to just 12 points.
“It’s not just me, he (Anderson) wants everybody to fix things,” Ramsey said. “He just sees me as the main guy doing it. Every time something breaks down, I’m going to try and fix it.”
He found his place in the Tigers' system near the end of his junior year. Ramsey transferred to Missouri from Okaloosa-Walton Junior College in Florida. He was used to playing 30 minutes a game and led in every statistical category outside of scoring. Ramsey said he struggled early as a Tigers player, only averaging 12 minutes on the floor.
“In this system, it isn’t how many minutes you play, it’s what you do with them,” Ramsey said. “So I started making the most of my minutes.”
This season, Ramsey’s play has earned him promotion to captain. He said he has struggled with the vocal aspects of the job and prefers to lead more by example by diving on the floor for loose balls and deflecting rebounds to keep the ball alive for his teammates. Missouri forward Justin Safford said the little things Ramsey does sets the tone for the team as a whole.
“I think defensively Keith can really impact a game,” Safford said. “It’s not always about scoring with this team, because we got a bunch of different guys who can score. But he can really impact the game a lot of different ways.”
Recently Ramsey has started to make an impact on offense. He has improved his free-throw shooting from 35 to 62 percent so he won’t be a liability at the end of games. Against Oklahoma, he made his first 3-point shot of the season. The more aggressive approach is something Safford said would complete Ramsey.
“It would expand his game a lot more because then guys would have to come out and guard him,” Safford said. “Then he is able take them off the dribble or draw fouls.”
Even as Ramsey continues to expand offensively, he said he still prefers plugging the leaks in the team’s defense to scoring. When asked if he knew any of his stats, he said he had no idea. He said he would rather talk about a screen he set or a deflection he had that led to a fast break.
“I feel like that’s the part that gets us going,” Ramsey said. “Somebody is going to have to get us going on defense to try and help us win games.”