Jan. 4, 2013
Columbia, Mo. -
By Brandon Weiss, Mizzou Athletics Student Assistant
Following stints at two schools and competing in various levels of college basketball, Tony Criswell has reached his collegiate home, the University of Missouri.
Growing up in Oklahoma City, Criswell knew that he had enough ability on the basketball court to select his college destination. Named a McDonald's All-America Game nominee as a senior, the 6-foot-9 Criswell received his fair share of scholarship offers, but at the time, Missouri wasn't on his radar.
"My coach kind of pushed to get (Mizzou) involved, but they weren't really on my list," Criswell admitted.
Instead, Criswell landed at UAB, where he played for the Mike Davis and the Blazers. After sitting out a year as a redshirt, the developing forward got his first taste of playing time in 2010 and posted averages of 3.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He put up a career high 12 points in the Blazers' conference showdown against the Memphis Tigers, showing folks across the country he could excel vs. the top teams in the college game.
In 2011, Criswell transferred to Independence Community College where his development took his recruitment to another level. In his 19 games the redshirt sophomore averaged just under 12 points per night. His play at Independence excelled enough where he earned several offers from SEC and Big 12 programs, including one from Frank Haith and the Tigers.
Now settled in at Mizzou, his third school in three seasons, Criswell credits much of his growth as a player to his experiences at his previous schools.
"I feel like the instruction at UAB helped me to reach this level, and the pace at junior college, getting up and down, helps me at this level too," he said. "But this level is much more advanced than both of those levels. You compete against great players every day and the instruction we get in practice is the best in America."
His past experiences have meshed nicely with the fundamental approach of Haith, and has allowed the junior to play the best basketball of his career in Columbia.
Criswell's biggest asset is his versatility, a welcomed trait by Haith, who preaches toughness, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
"I feel like I can switch off on anyone and help our defense," Criswell said. "Whether it's guard, a big or a wing, I want to be able to help us get a stop and put us in the best position to win the game."
His ability to help in all matchups defensively is reminiscent of the job Kim English did last year. In fact Criswell even pulled his best English impression as he took two charges in the first half of the season-opening win against SIU Edwardsville.
"Whatever it takes to win, we will do it," Criswell said. "We have to be ready to adjust our roles at a moment's notice. Whatever Coach Haith needs from us, we'll be ready."
And that adjustment has been smooth off the court as well, as two of Missouri's veteran leaders have helped Criswell adjust to his new life at Mizzou.
"Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey took me under their wings when I got here in June, and it's really helped me reach this point," Criswell said. "From workouts, the stuff we do as teammates off the court, going to class and being active in the community, they've helped me along."
While Criswell is still early in his Mizzou career, being around the program has made quite an impression on the forward.
"It's better than what I'm used to and better than how I pictured it," Criswell said. "From the fan support to how serious it is to everybody, it's just a completely different atmosphere here. I love it."
Missouri has offered Criswell more than just a chance to excel on the court. In the classroom he is pursuing a degree in hospitality management and would like to carry that experience into the real world once he concludes his career in basketball.
"Like everybody else, I want to play professional basketball, but I want to be prepared for every possible scenario," Criswell said. "Basketball can be taken away from you, but that college degree is forever and to have a degree from Missouri would be very special."