Frontcourt stars highlight all-time starting 5 for the Missouri Tigers
Editor’s note: SDS is selecting an all-time starting 5 for every SEC team, part of our expanded coverage of March Madness.
The Missouri Tigers have had some great teams, but the program has made it to 25 NCAA Tournaments without reaching the Final Four. That’s the third-most March Madness appearances without a Final Four berth, behind only BYU (29) and Xavier (27).
The Tigers will likely make their 26th tourney this year, but making a Final Four run would be a stretch. However, Cuonzo Martin seems to have the program moving in the right direction in his first year as head coach.
Perhaps some players from Martin’s tenure will end up as some of the best in Mizzou history, but for now, the Tigers’ all-time starting 5 is a mix of older players and some athletes from Mike Anderson’s time in Columbia.
With some insight from Brendon Steenbergen, who hosts the popular “Mizzodcast” and has written a book about the history of Mizzou athletics, here’s a look at who I believe should be in the Tigers’ all-time starting 5:
G: Jon Sundvold (1980-83)
Sundvold could do everything you’d want a guard to do. He could score, he hit free throws, he was a good distributor, and he was no slouch defensively, either.
Like Steve Stipanovich (see below), Sundvold was a 1983 All-American and played for four consecutive Big 8 title teams. That’s one of the most successful stretches in Mizzou basketball history, and Sundvold was a huge reason for that success.
Every good team needs a leader from the guard position, and Sundvold was one of the best, not just in Mizzou history, but in the entire era in which he played. He finished with 382 assists, which was second when he graduated.
G: Phil Pressey (2011-13)
Pressey is one of the more recent players on this list, but in his three seasons at Mizzou, he managed to become the school’s all-time leader in assists with 580 and is also tied for the all-time lead in steals with 96.
With some talented scorers around him on this roster, having a guy who is able to distribute the ball (while averaging 10+ points per game himself) is a huge benefit.
F: Derrick Chievous (1985-88)
This one is a no-brainer, as Chievous is Mizzou’s all-time leading scorer by a healthy margin, with 2,580 career points, and also averaged 7.5 rebounds a game over the course of his illustrious career in Columbia.
The star forward could do it all, whether that was getting to the basket and drawing fouls, scoring in the paint or knocking down the occasional 3-point shot. Every conversation about Mizzou’s best player starts (and usually ends) with him, so he’s the centerpiece of this all-time starting 5.
Steenbergen said Chievous’s career accomplishments give him a solid case to be the best player in Mizzou basketball history.
“He averaged almost 20 points a game for his career,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys who do something like that for their senior years, but he did that for his entire career. He’s definitely on the Mount Rushmore and has a strong argument for No. 1.”
F: DeMarre Carroll (2008-09)
This pick, admittedly, is a biased one, as Carroll was the heart of the Mizzou teams that won a Big 12 title and made a deep NCAA tourney run when I was in college.
However, after transferring from Vanderbilt, he scored more than 1,000 points in a Tigers uniform and made everyone else on the floor better with his energy and selfless play.
“Carroll, part of it was personality,” Steenbergen said. “He was such a big personality. They started every game with him on the scoreboard screaming. He’s had a really good NBA career, too.”
So while Carroll may not have the career numbers that the other guys in this lineup have, he was part of Mizzou’s most-recent great teams, and his style of play would help make this all-time starting 5 even more fun to watch.
C: Steve Stipanovich (1980-83)
Arthur Johnson (see below) leads the Tigers in rebounds and blocks, but Stipanovich was one of the most talented players of his era — and centers like Ralph Sampson, Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon were focal points of that era. He was so good during his Mizzou career that he ended up being the No. 2 overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft, going to the Indiana Pacers.
Steenbergen said Stipanovich is a no-brainer pick for the center position, citing his 1983 All-American season in which he won the Big 8 Player of the Year award.
“I don’t think I would put together a starting 5 and leave of Steve Stipanovich,” he said. “He was All-American, No. 2 overall draft pick. He was a national name in that era. Stipo was by far and away a more national brand of basketball player than Arthur Johnson was. When he left, he was the (Mizzou) all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks.”
At 7-1, Stipanovich can protect the rim and score over smaller forwards and centers. Other big men have come through the Missouri program, but Stipo is still remembered as one of the best.
George Williams: Steenbergen authored a book called “Mizzou Sports through the Ages” and made sure to mention Williams, who played for the Tigers in 1920-21, when the Tigers went 17-1 each season.
“At the time, in 1921, was named the national player of the year in college basketball and is the only Mizzou player to receive that honor,” Steenbergen said. “He was averaging like 17 points per game in an era when teams were only scoring like 50 points a game.”
Indeed, Williams’ scoring records lasted until the 1950s, when the rules of basketball started favoring more offensive output.
Anthony Peeler: Peeler is third in points, second in assists and tied with Pressey for the all-time lead in steals in Mizzou history, so he was a tough omission from the starting 5. Steenbergen also noted that Peeler went on to a good deal of success after leaving Columbia.
“He has to be one of the best NBA players we’ve ever produced,” Steenbergen said. “One thing a lot of people don’t realize is he still holds the all-time three-point record for the Minnesota Timberwolves.”
Peeler’s 465 3-pointers in a Timberwolves uniform are 25 ahead of Kevin Love for first place, and it appears he’ll hold onto the record for a few more years, at least.
Arthur Johnson: As Mizzou’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots, Johnson deserves a mention. If not for Stipo’s brilliant career, Johnson might be the starting center.
However, Stipanovich gets the edge for his offensive abilities.