COLUMBIA — Stefhon Hannah did just about everything in his first season with the Missouri basketball team.
The junior-college transfer led Missouri in seven major statistical categories, including points, assists, steals and minutes played. The 6-foot-1-inch point guard was also Missouri’s top scorer in the paint and fourth best rebounder. At the end of the season, he was unanimously named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
“He came in as committed to Division 1 basketball, probably as good as any player I’ve had since I’ve been here,” coach Mike Anderson said.
But that honeymoon is over. Missouri finished 18-12 last year and was not invited to play in any postseason tournament.
“Last year I had an all-right season,” Hannah said. “But it wasn’t about the individual stats, it was about my team. I want to win more than anything.”
And while Hannah thinks this year’s team is improved, he knows he can build individually on last season as well. For all the positives in Hannah’s first season, he also left some to be desired on defense and averaged a team-high 3.3 turnovers per game.
“Coach wants us to play fast so I was playing fast,” Hannah said. “But I really wasn’t playing smart at times.”
Hannah spent the summer in Columbia and his home in Chicago working on his game — specifically court awareness and defense.
The school year started out a bit slow, with Hannah missing more than a week of unofficial practice with an infection in his foot , but he is back at practice and expects to be back in full fitness by the beginning of the season.
But now, in the first full week of official practice, it appears the biggest difference in Hannah this year might be his mindset.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Hannah said. After a season under Anderson, “We’re more of a family now. We were trying to be a family last year but we really didn’t know too much about each other.”
Now that they do, Hannah said the trust among players is higher.
“I feel like my team just not only got better, we’ve got more confidence and we bonded way more,” Hannah said. “I just feel like it’s a great connection. The only way we can be stopped is if we stop ourselves.”
And if opponents are able to slow Hannah down this season, Hannah and Anderson aren’t worried. Including last year, Anderson said his teams are notone dimensional.
“It’s not like if you stop Stefhon, you stop Missouri,” Anderson said. “That’s not how it is. We have other weapons, guys that can do other things, but we are going to be the ultimate team.”
For now though, more than three weeks until the first game, Hannah is feeling good.
“Were just clicking, that’s why I think we’re going to be good,” Hannah said. “I feel like we can go as far as we push ourselves.”