COLUMBIA — When Robin Pingeton became the head coach of the Missouri women's basketball team in 2010, her first task was to win over the players who had been recruited by old coach Cindy Stein.
"Our philosophy when we first took over here at Missouri, we re-recruited the players that were already here, and I think those relationships were important," Pingeton said in October. "It's hard when you go through a coaching change as a player."
No. 14 South Carolina (22-5, 10-4 SEC)
at Missouri (15-13, 4-10 SEC)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/103.1 & 100.5 FM, 1580 AM
No one knows that better than Sydney Crafton.
Crafton, a senior guard, is the lone remaining Stein recruit on the Tigers. Thursday, she will play her last regular-season home game when Missouri hosts South Carolina.
At the team's media day on Wednesday, she fielded the typical questions about the emotions that come with Senior Night.
But instead of looking ahead, she began to look back.
She looked back to her freshman year, to the laid-back style of the coach who recruited her.
She looked back at the adjustments she had to make when Pingeton took over.
"I would say because of her, I'm a better person," Crafton said. "How do I explain it? I've got a different view of how things work, because with Coach Stein, you kind of did what you wanted."
For the first year of Pingeton's tenure, Crafton said, she continued to do what she wanted. Things didn't change until the beginning of her junior year, at what she called her turning point.
"I missed class," Crafton said. "I don't think it was ever addressed, but I missed class, and I lied to her.
"And I realized, you can't do that. She deserves better."
Crafton said it was a low in her relationship with Pingeton.
"I think from there, that's where I really realized I've got to figure stuff out, or it's not going to work out," she said.
Since then, Crafton has been working to be more consistent for her never-satisfied coach.
All season, Pingeton spoke of the need to get Crafton to be more consistent, to get in more shots outside of practice, to make big plays and set the example as the team's lone four-year senior.
She saw Crafton begin to put in more consistent effort at practice. She saw her teammates feed off her "contagious" personality. She saw her make game-winning shots against Ole Miss and Florida.
"She's somebody that has a ton of potential," Pingeton said Wednesday. "Old habits die hard. I think that's been the challenge, to maximize and get the most of what we all know she can bring to the court."
On Wednesday, Pingeton took a step back and praised her senior.
"I love that girl to death, and I am proud of her, and I've seen a ton of growth in her as a person, as a basketball player, as a student athlete," said Pingeton, placing a special emphasis on the last phrase.
And after looking back on her turning point, Crafton confirmed the growth that her coach had brought about.
"We've had our ups and downs," she said. "It's been hard. Wasn't an easy route."
Then she smiled.
"I haven't missed class since."
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers