Posted: 12:21 p.m. Monday, July 22, 2013
By Bill C.
Anthony Peeler was just … different. Mizzou had obviously come across plenty of incredible basketball talent in Norm Stewart's first two decades in charge. Willie Smith and Ricky Frazier could score with anybody. Steve Stipanovich and Doug Smith were prototypical stud big men (though Smith was certainly close to the edge of the prototype). Jon Sundvold was the heady shooter and point guard type. And Mizzou was rich with the workhorse-in-a-power-forward's-body types, from Al Eberhard, to Kim Anderson, to Curtis Berry, to Malcolm Thomas, to Dan Bingenheimer, to Mike Sandbothe.
But the Tigers had never had an athlete like Anthony Peeler, someone who could not only dunk over you with malice and D you up with cruelty, but also play any role the team needed him to play at any given time.
In 22 minutes per game as a freshman, Peeler contributed 10 points, four rebounds, three assists, and a steal. He also made 35 percent of his 3-pointers for a Sweet 16 squad. In his sophomore season, he became the perfect complement to Doug Smith, playing 33 minutes per game and filling the box score with 17 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals, and 35 percent 3-point shooting for a team that spent quite a bit of time at No. 1 in the country.
For the 1991 Big 8 champions as a junior, he averaged a 19-6-5 with two steals and 41 percent 3-point shooting after missing part of the season due to academics. And even while forced to almost entirely carry the offense in 1992, he still chipped in six rebounds, four assists and two steals while scoring 23 points per game and making 42 percent of his 3s.
Peeler filled the box score like almost nobody ever has at Missouri, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He was also a ferocious dunker, and he had perhaps the single best performance a Mizzou player has ever managed against Kansas. That his 43-point domination didn't make this list is probably to this list's discredit (though the fact that Mizzou lost probably has something to do with it).
Still without [Jamal] Coleman, the Tigers closed the regular season at third-ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks held a big lead well into the second half, and seemed poised to run away from the depleted Tigers. Then Peeler – in an effort recalling Willie Smith’s performance against Michigan in the 1976 NCAA Tournament – put on a show for the ages. With under eight minutes to play, Missouri trailed 78-64, and Peeler led all scorers with 24 points. But he was just getting started. With the game all but out of reach, Peeler reeled Kansas in. He turned steals into dunks, and carved up Kansas with his blinding speed. But more than anything, he put up shots with little conscience or consciousness, and ripped the nets time after time. Peeler scored 19 points down the stretch, the last nine on three successive three-pointers that cut KU’s lead to 91-89 with 45 seconds left. But Missouri could come no closer. Kansas converted free throws to win, 97-89, but Peeler’s 43-point performance was the story of the day. "He was unconscious," said Jayhawk Alonzo Jamison. Norm Stewart was proud in defeat. "Our effort was tremendous," he said.
Perhaps the most dizzying all-around talent ever to play at Mizzou, Anthony Peeler could slash, pass, score and defend the perimeter as well as any Tiger in history. A 6’4" guard from Kansas City’s Paseo High, Peeler was the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year in 1989, as he helped the Tigers reach the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. In his sophomore season, Peeler showed his remarkable versatility, averaging 16.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.0 steals en route to being named first-team All-Big Eight. He also became just the eighth Tiger to score 40 points in a game as he drilled Iowa State for 42, including a perfect 20 for 20 from the free throw line. After he lost the early part of his junior season to academics, Peeler returned and averaged 19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Peeler was even more dominant as a senior, winning the Big Eight scoring title and Player of the Year honors, and leading a group of young role players to the NCAA Tournament. But the most vivid memory of that season came in a loss, when he scored an electrifying 43 points at Kansas. His 1,970 career points rank him third all-time, and he remains number one in assists (497) and steals (196).
One of the most exciting players in the history of Missouri basketball, Anthony Peeler starred for the Tigers from 1989-92. He played on a conference championship team in 1990, on teams that won the Big Eight Conference Tournament in 1989 and '91, and on three teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Peeler was the Big Eight Conference player of the year and male athlete of the year in 1992, and also won all-America honors. He was the league's newcomer of the year in '89, and twice won first-team all-conference honors. Peeler scored 1,970 points in his Tiger career and led the conference with a 23.4-point scoring average as a senior. The Kansas City native was a first-round draft choice of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. He has also been a starter for the Vancouver Grizzlies and his current team, the Minnesota Timberwolves
Peeler lasted 14 seasons in the NBA, scoring 10 points per game with three rebounds and two assists. His best seasons were 1996-97 (14.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 37.3% on 3-pointers) and 1997-98 (13.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 45.3% on 3-pointers). Once retired, he began his coaching career. He is currently an assistant at Virginia Union.
Now if you'll pardon me, I'm going to watch that dunk montage one more time.