On Saturday, the 30th anniversary of its only other men’s basketball championship, Central Missouri captured the NCAA Division II title.
The Mules defeated West Liberty of West Virginia, 84-77.
For veteran coach Kim Anderson, the thrill of winning his first national title came when the final piece fell into place. This was it. One last chance for Daylen Robinson to go out with a bang.
He did it years ago with an exclamation point at Northeast High School in Kansas City — 57 points in his final game there.
“When I watched him in high school, he shot it every time he touched it.” Anderson, who’s in his 12th year coaching the Mules, remembered.
Anderson said as he turned toward Robinson in the interview rook podium.
“But, you know, he had to. That was his role,” he said.
Robinson had major college potential written all over him and, after two years at Moberly Junior College, he played one season at Texas Tech. But when Coach Tubby Smith was hired at Texas Tech, Robinson felt he needed to move on. There was only one season of eligibility left. No room to make the wrong choice.
Robinson said he liked the potential at Central Missouri.
“Last year they had a very good record. They won a conference championship and they won a tournament championship,” said Robinson. “I told Coach from the beginning of the year that I want a ring. And we got it.”
Joining the Mules was a bit of a reunion for Robinson. His former junior college coach, Nate Johnson, is on Central Missouri’s coaching staff. Plus, a couple of Robinson’s Moberly teammates had transferred there. In fact, they jelled at the right time in the semifinal game against top-seeded Metro State of Denver when T.J. White, who went to O’Hara High School, made the game-winning shot with one second left.
Instead of trying to score himself like he did in high school, it’s important to note that Robinson made the pass on White’s winning shot.
“When he came here, he’s been very unselfish. I mean he’s been tremendous,” said Anderson.
But as college players tend to do, Robinson could occasionally drive Anderson crazy.
“Usually you have to get after ol’ Daylon a little bit,” added Anderson.
When the game got down to the crucial stage on Saturday, Anderson knew he needed Robinson, a 6-foot guard, to take charge. And he did.
Robinson finished with a game-high 21 points and was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He was one of 11 new players that Anderson molded into a championship team.
After winning a share of their conference championship this season, Anderson started to hear talk about bigger things.
“Everybody always says, ‘Yeah, we’re going to win a national championship. Well, a lot of times that’s baloney,” said Anderson.
As a former player and assistant coach at the University of Missouri, Anderson was part of conference championships, but was never able to taste the Final Four. As the coach at Central Missouri, Anderson is the school’s all-time leader in victories, made two other trips to Division II’s Final Four and now has a national championship.
“It means a great deal to me because that’s the ultimate. I mean that’s the ultimate to win a national championship for our school, our community and all the Mule fans around the state and the country even. So, yeah, it’s great,” said Anderson.
Even when he’s left scratching his head trying to find that one final piece that completes the puzzle.
Central Missouri is planning a parade and celebration in Warrensburg Monday.