|Missouri's players enjoying a day in Bruges. (Missouri Athletics)|
In our Trippin' series, we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Check here for all Trippin'-related stories.
Mike Dixon was the lone player who received minutes a year ago. Everyone else who took the court for Missouri on its recent overseas trip was a newcomer.
The Tigers roster has rolled over, thanks to transfers, freshmen and the return of Laurence Bowers. However, head coach Frank Haith was raving -- not only about the talent level, but the chemistry and work ethic of his latest group in Columbia.
"We gave them the week off after they came back," Haith said. "But these guys were in the gym, working on their games and lifting every day. It's been a great group so far in terms of work ethic."
What Haith learned: "That we can be a really good defensive team. Earnest Ross and Keion Bell have the ability to lock guys down on the perimeter and with the addition of Laurence (Bowers) and Phil (Pressey) and Mike (Dixon), we could be scary good and lock teams down on the defensive end."
Who stood out: "The biggest surprises were Ryan Rosburg and Tony Criswell. I think they can both be really good rotation guys. Criswell can really score. He's got great size, is athletic, quick and mobile for someone 6-foot-9. I had no idea Rosburg would play that well. He really surprised me. He can be a really good backup for Alex (Oriakhi). He's smart, knows how to use his body, has terrific footwork and is a good post defender. He rebounded in traffic and wasn't afraid to throw his body around."
Biggest concern: "I'm not really sure. We are in a good situation in terms of bodies, talent level. The biggest thing is guys adjusting to roles. That's going to be key for us. Guys buying into their roles. We had guys that were the leading scorers on their previous teams and now they'll have to sacrifice."
- Dixon played most of the games at the point since Pressey was held out with a minor foot injury he suffered just prior to the trip. Keion Bell got minutes as the backup point guard. "It was a great experience for Mike to be the full-time point guard," Haith said.
- Haith said the competition was formidable on the trip. "We didn't play college teams," he said. "We played against pros -- and it was physical each game."
- Alex Oriakhi struggled early, much of it because he wasn't used to getting the ball on the block, but Haith said he started to get used to it and finished the trip strong -- with a 16-point, 13-rebound performance. "We kept throwing it to him," Haith said. "He'll become a factor."
- Haith said he pulled his team off the court in the third quarter of a game against a team from the Netherlands for safety concerns. The game was chippy, freshman Stefan Jankovic took an elbow to the head on a non-call and Haith was ejected for protesting. "Every game was physical like that," Haith said. "Those teams were prideful and didn't want to lose to a college team. … I chose to err on the side of caution and protect our guys. It was nothing against the Dutch team. They were playing hard, but I just didn't want to put our guys in a situation where something could happen."
- Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson, who led the Hurricanes in scoring last season, is sitting out this year for Mizzou. He's already made quite an impact on Haith. "In practice, he's shown that he could be the best player on our team." Clarkson is a big-time shooter, is athletic and has a terrific burst, according to Haith. "He's quick, explosive and athletic," he said. Haith said he's a combo guard who is more comfortable and dangerous playing away from the ball -- as was the case last season for Doug Wojcik at Tulsa.
- Haith has his son, Corey, as a freshman walk-on. "It's awesome," Haith said of his son, who played sparingly in each game on the trip. "As an assistant and a head coach, you obviously don't spend as much time with him as you want. I've never coached him, but now I get the chance -- and I also get the opportunity to be around him. He's a good little player."
- Haith puts Bowers, who was held out of the trip despite being cleared by the doctors, at about 85 to 90 percent of the way back following the season-ending knee injury last preseason. "He'll tell you he's 95 percent," Haith said. "He's getting his explosiveness back and is dunking it. After some workouts, he's still got a little bit of tendinitis here and there." Haith said there was no reason to risk Bowers in August.
- Canadian freshman Negus Webster-Chan was cleared by the NCAA while Missouri was in the midst of the trip, so he didn't play. "The paperwork didn't go through until we were in the middle," Haith said. The 6-foot-6 1/2 wing is a shooter with size and does a little bit of everything. Look for him to get an opportunity early since Oregon transfer Jabari Brown won't be eligible until mid-December and the Tigers will only have four perimeter guys for the first part of the season.
- Speaking of Brown, he struggled with his shot early in the trip, but rebounded and made shots the last couple of games. "He can really score the ball," Haith said. "He's got great size and is a good kid. I think all of our transfers were geeked up because they sat last season and have waited so long."
- Haith has hired Western Michigan assistant Rick Carter to replace Ryan Miller, who departed for Auburn.
- In case you missed it: Missouri also put in a new floor at its home arena.