As his scoring fell off that final year at Mizzou, Rush (finally) became a more complete player. Guess what happened? The Tigers started to win like they were expected at the season’s start.
Rush’s game finally evolved inside the 3-point arc. He finally started to absorb contact late that season. A major headline was the busted lip he took in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
“Kareem is so gifted a scorer, he’s got such a finesse game, that a lot of times he can avoid confrontation,” Snyder said at the 2002 tourney in a Bernie Miklasz column that week in Albuquerque, N.M., where MU launched its improbable run to the Elite Eight. “And he’s learning how to take confrontation on. And to me that’s a mindset that gets him to the foul line more.”
“He’s also learning more than anything, the way to handle being a great player,” Snyder added. “And how you can impact a game in a variety of ways. Not just as a jump shooter, but as a driver, a passer, a defender, or as a rebounder. Those are things he talked about earlier in the year, but I don’t know that he really embraced them. I still think he got more enjoyment out of scoring. I think he’s really grown as a player in seeing other aspects of the game.”
If you reflect solely on Rush’s strengths and not his shortcomings, he was one of the best in Mizzou history — especially in the post-Stewart generation. He was a shooter. He was a scorer. And damn good. Let us count the ways.