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October 1, 2010
The United States Army used to run an advertising campaign that stated "We do more before 6 a.m. than most people do all day." Not that Mike Anderson is running a boot camp, but the slogan could certainly rival Missouri's current "Fastest 40 Minutes" motto.
"I usually get up at about five o'clock," Marcus Denmon said. "We have six a.m. workouts. We do conditioning. We have about 200 minutes a week or something like that, so we usually spread it out over the week. We do like 25 or 30 minutes a day, something like that. Then we work on individual drills, individual ballhandling, work on defense. We have to go to class and study hall. Try to get something to eat in there. Then we come back in the afternoon for weights."
And at some point in there, the Tigers try to sleep.
"I usually go to bed around ten o'clock," Kim English said. "Even if I'm just laying there. I try to sit down, get off my feet, any time I can. I take the first seat I see in class. That many less steps."
The Tigers say they get about six or seven hours of sleep each night, before reporting for workouts no later than 7 a.m. The team is split into two or three groups each day and the first group starts at 6 or 6:30.
"Coach always says, 'If I have to get up at three o'clock or four o'clock every day to win a national championship, that's what we're going to do,'" said senior Justin Safford. "You can tell, that's what we're striving for."
Across the country, other college basketball players are doing similar things in the months of September and October. The Tigers are not alone. They say others may work as hard...they just aren't working harder.
"There's only a certain amount of work you can do," Denmon said. "I think we're at the max. I don't know what we could be doing to work any harder."
"The guys I follow on Twitter, when I go back to the locker room after this, they're just waking up. They work out after school," English said. "Coach says that getting up that early every day builds discipline."
Each day, the Tigers are working for the NCAA Tournament, a place they have been two years in a row and are expected to be again next March. For veterans like Denmon, Safford and English, the workouts have become part of the routine. Not so for all of their teammates.
"Some of the new guys, you can only tell them about it," Safford said. "But until they get out there and experience it for themselves..."
Not that the vets consider Camp Anderson any easier in year three or four than it was in year one.
"Physically, it doesn't get any easier," Denmon said. "But mentally, you know what to expect. You can kind of prepare for it a little better."
"It never gets easier," Safford agreed.
But the Tigers view the rigorous months as a means to an end.
"In the mornings, coach is starting to implement some things we do in our offense and our defense," English said. "In the afternoons, when we play pickup, you can see some of the younger guys starting to use some of that stuff...They've come so far from June until now. I can't wait to see where they will be in February or March."
It will be in those months that the Tigers can see the fruits of their labor pay off. The team will open practice on October 15th, a Friday. It's a day the Tigers are waiting for anxiously.
"The guys on this team get along, we know each other's tendencies," Safford said. "You don't always see that with teams, there are no egos. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone is working for the same thing."
That goal is a national title. And, maybe, at some point, a nap along the way.
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