COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri's Mike Anderson is one basketball coach who literally means it when he talks about the Tiger program as his family.
A highly anticipated recruiting class that will be unveiled at Friday's first practice includes the two sons of Anderson's best friend and college teammate, former NBA star Paul Pressey.
The fifth-year Missouri coach counts on nephew T.J. Cleveland as his top recruiter. Former Missouri guard Michael Anderson Jr. remains on campus as a graduate assistant and coach-in-training. DeMarre Carroll, another Anderson nephew, led Missouri's recent resurgence and now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.
"It's unbelievable," said Missouri assistant Matt Zimmerman, whose own connections with Anderson extend nearly 25 years. "It's awful nice when your head coach has nephews that you can get."
Another freshman is a member of the extended Missouri basketball family. Shooting guard Ricky Kreklow of Columbia is the son of Tiger volleyball coach Wayne Kreklow, a former Boston Celtic reserve with an NBA championship ring.
Anderson and Pressey first bonded in the Tulsa backcourt nearly 30 years ago under new coach Nolan Richardson, who brought along his top player (Pressey) from West Texas College as well as a point guard (Anderson) from the Alabama junior college they had just defeated for the juco title.
The elder Pressey, now a Cleveland Cavaliers assistant, is "like a brother" to Anderson, the Missouri coach said. Freshmen Phil Pressey and older brother Matt, a junior college transfer, took summer vacations with Anderson and his family. Now, their new coach is all business.
"I had to convince these guys I'm not Uncle Mike," Anderson said. "This is my job."
Still, Paul Pressey is a decidedly proud papa knowing that his sons are in trusted hands, both for basketball and beyond.
"A lot of kids would go for all the glitter," Pressey said. "It's not about glitter. It's about people helping you grow. Basketball is not going to carry you through life. Character will."
Missouri returns four of its top five scorers and six players who saw considerable minutes last season, including starters Laurence Bowers and sharpshooter Kim English. The team's lone senior is Justin Safford, whose season was cut short by a knee injury.
Phil Pressey, a 5-foot-10 blur of a guard from Dallas, counted Arizona, Baylor, Connecticut, Florida and LSU among his suitors before settling on Missouri. His 6-foot-2 brother quickly followed.
"It's been a longtime family relationship," Matt Pressey said. "A lot of (programs) try to sell it. But when you really know someone and are comfortable, it's a lot easier decision."
Especially for a juco transfer with just two years remaining in his college career.
"I had to go somewhere where I really trusted somebody, and knew they were going to do the right thing for me," Pressey said. "I'm on the clock. My time is running out."
Anderson calls his emphasis on family a conscious decision instilled by Richardson, his mentor.
"It's the circle of life," he said. "It starts here, and comes back."
Yet anyone who has played sports with a parent — or uncle, or close family friend — as a coach knows that keeping the two roles distinct can be difficult. Michael Anderson Jr., whose playing time under his dad was sparse, acknowledged some of the inherent conflicts.
"It's rewarding in some ways. In some ways it's tough," he said. "You can do the favorite thing you love to do with your father. But you have to separate the basketball and the coach (from the family side)."
Building future rosters is nearly as important in college basketball as game-day strategy. At Missouri, that means looking not just at the high school classes of 2011 and 2012 but another decade or two down the line.
"These 13 players right here," said Zimmerman, gesturing toward the Missouri squad at a recent youth basketball clinic, "they're going to have some sons down the road who will play."
Missouri, aiming for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, opens its season Nov. 5 against Harris-Stowe, followed by three nonconference home games before a Thanksgiving tournament in Cancun, Mexico.