Posted on: December 1, 2011 1:59 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Frank Haith was concerned with how his players would react when the reigns of a veteran club at Missouri.
"Usually, it goes one of two ways," Haith said. "They can adjust to what you do -- or they fight you on it. ... These guys bought in -- and I was surprised at how quickly it happened."
Haith has raved about how this team obliged thus far, but he is also cautiously optimistic going forward.
"We've got a lot way to go," Haith said.
Remember, this is a team without much depth - especially along the frontline. The matchups against both Cal and Notre Dame were advantageous, but for Missouri to win the Big 12 - the Tigers will have to win games against Kansas and Baylor.
"Those are two tough matchups for us because of their size," Haith said.
Haith raved about the chemistry of the team, something that was clearly an issue a year ago. Guys are getting their shots - and the numbers are impressive. KenPom.com has the Tigers at second in the nation at efficiency field goal percentage (a number that credits teams for 3-pointers) and eighth in the country at adjusted offensive efficiency. Missouri is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc and 77 percent from the line.
The first move that Haith made after taking over was to make it clear that sophomore Phil Pressey would have the ball in his hands far more than was the case a year ago under former coach Mike Anderson. Pressey has responded, averaging 10.2 points and coming off a game in which he had 11 assists without a turnover -- and also without taking a single shot.
"I say it all the time that he reminds me of T.J. Ford," said Haith, who coached Ford as an assistant at Texas. "They are both pure point guards who can control the game without scoring. Phil can also be a terror on the defensive end. T.J. didn't do that as much."
Senior Kim English has thrived thus far under Haith after being forced, following the season-ending injury to big man Laurence Bowers in the preseason, to play the four spot. He's averaging a career-high 18.2 points while shooting 63 percent (25-of-40) from 3-point range.
"These guys are so gifted offensively that they don't have to hunt shots," Haith said. "They've bought into that."
Marcus Denmon leads the team in scoring (18.5) and is also averaging 5.7 boards per game while shooting 42 percent from long distance - all with committing just three turnovers through the first six games, all victories.
"He's a great scorer whose been sharing the ball, too," Haith said. "He can really shoot it, has a great first step and is terrific in transition."
Posted on: November 23, 2011 1:04 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 1:10 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Kids love playing fast. However, what they really enjoy is playing more and playing free.
That's just one of the reasons why Missouri senior Kim English and his teammates have thrived thus far.
There's the 5-0 record under new coach Frank Haith - but plenty of Top 25 teams are undefeated. The Tigers have pummeled Notre Dame and Cal by an average of nearly 30 points.
"It's easier to get in a flow this year," English said shortly after the 92-53 rout over a ranked Bears team. "I never have to worry about hunting my shots, because I trust the system."
Marcus Denmon was the lone player on the team who averaged 30-plus minutes a year ago under Mike Anderson. He's averaging 31 minutes this year and seen his scoring increase from 16.9 to 19.6 points per game. English's minutes have gone from 25.8 to 33.2, Michael Dixon's have increased from 22.3 to 26.8 and Phil Pressey has jumped from 22 to 30.8.
Haith wasted no time making the intelligent move of not only putting the ball in Pressey's hands the majority of the time, but allowing the pass-first, jet-qick point guard to play through his mistakes -- something Anderson never understood. Even when Pressey struggles a bit, as he did against Cal, Dixon can pick up the slack.
"They won't both be off," English said. "Phil needs the ball in his hands; that's his advantage."
English said this is the happiest he's been in his career.
"Last year was so hard from me. When I got cut from USA basketball, I was in the dumps," he said. "It was almost like I fell out of love with basketball. Then I started working all summer and now it's fun again."
"This team is definitely the most selfless team I've ever played on," he added.
English is thriving, averaging 16 points thus far and shooting the ball as well as he has in his career. He's 18-of-30 from beyond the arc. Denmon continues to shine, Ricardo Ratliffe is solid in the post and the combo of Pressey and Dixon is a terrific 1-2 punch - and can also play together.
Sure, it's early to completely leap onto the Mizzou bandwagon.
The Tigers are far from intimidating up front and don't have much depth.
But these guys aren't looking over their shoulder anymore -- and for them, that's a welcome change.
Posted on: August 13, 2011 1:39 pm
By Jeff Goodman